The Forest Practices Authority

Visual landscape management 

Cultural heritage management in Tasmanian forests

Cultural heritage refers to those places and sites that have been influenced by the actions of people in the past, both Aboriginal and historic. The Forest Practices Code states that '…heritage will be considered in all stages of forest management'. This web page outlines some of these sites and the processes that are in place to protect significant places in the forest practices system. General information is provided on the types of heritage sites known in Tasmania's forests, the heritage management processes in place, the research program, the training of officers to provide the skills for successful management and the compliance systems of the Forest Practices Authority (FPA) to ensure good outcomes for these values.

The sites - Aboriginal

Aboriginal peoples in the past used the forests in a variety of ways. Unfortunately almost all of their rich culture has been lost by time. Songs, stories and ceremonies do not leave a physical footprint. Neither do all the organic components of their life ways including the foods that they hunted and consumed, the woven and wooden implements and the furs they used to keep warm. What do survive are the stone implements, the quarries from which these were mined and the rock shelters in which they retreated to in bad weather. The Tasmanian wood production forests contain over 2000 Aboriginal sites, including the following types.

Stone tool scatters

Stone tool scatters are usually found on well drained soils, near water and in locations that were open forest with grassy understorey. These sites are usually found when the ground has been cultivated for plantation sites as this disturbance is usually required for the artefacts to become visible. These scatters are the result of people coming regularly to the same place and are generally thought to be camp sites.

Heritage management process

Historic use of the forests by people in the past must be considered in all stages of forest management. In the planning stage for a forest operation, the Forest Practices Officer (FPO) follows a process to ensure that these values, or the potential for these values to be present, are identified .
Identification of previously known sites is completed using the accumulated databases for Aboriginal and historic sites. If sites are known, prescriptions to manage these within the operation are outlined. Advice may be sought from the FPA's Cultural Heritage Manager in determining these prescriptions.

Identification of potential values

The FPO assesses the potential for new Aboriginal sites to be present using the predictive statements in the Forest Practices Code which include such criteria as proximity to water and well drained soils. If any of these criteria are present within the coupe and ground surface visibility is present, a further assessment of Aboriginal heritage is completed.

Field inspection

The coupe is inspected for new historic sites and if found a site record completed and forward to the FPA. Often new sites are discovered that have not been previously recorded. A site record includes information on location, a photographic record and a site plan. These new sites are added to the databases to be used in later forest rotations.


FPOs assesses the significance of all identified sites against criteria in the FPA Resource guide for managing cultural heritage in wood production forests.  Further advice may be sought from the FPA?s Cultural Heritage Manager. Prescriptions to manage the heritage values are clearly stated in the notification and placed in the final forest practices plan (FPP) that the harvesters will use.

Some sites are not located until the actual harvest begins because they have been covered under years of accumulated leaf litter and the like. In order to avoid these sites being damaged during operations, the FPO advises the contractors that work must cease if any evidence of historic activity is found. The site must be reported to the FPA before work can continue in that location.


Stone for making tools was selected with great care so as to be fine grained with a regular texture that ensured the tool maker the best outcome for his implement. Sources of such stone were highly prized and regularly visited, resulting in large outcrops being heavily mined.

Caves and rock shelters

Many rock shelters have been formed in the sandstone country in Tasmania. These appear to have been used as short term hunting camps or as refuges in wet weather. There is a noted preference for north and west facing openings as well as those openings that are easily accessible.

Ochre mining

Ochre held a special place in Aboriginal cultural activities such as ceromonies as well as being used to denote rank and seniority among the men. Several ochre quarries are known to have been highly prized as the ochre has a rich lustre and strong colour. These locations have been mined for over 1000 years.

The sites - Historic

There are over 2500 historic sites recorded in wood production forests. Since settlement by Europeans, people have constantly attempted to make a living from the forests themselves or seek wealth in the mineralised soils. The forests that remain today are the survivors of the economic system in which clearing the land for pastoral or argicultural pursuits was the favoured path. They are almost all regrowth forests resulting from early timber harvesting and alluvial and hard rock mining to failed agricultural attempts. Some of these sites are quite dramatic in the surviving remains while others are only just visible in the undergrowth. Some examples of historic sites are listed below.

Timber industry sites

Tasmania's forests attracted attention even before the British settlement in 1803 when passing ships stopped to replenish their supplies of cord wood and charcoal. Upon settlement it was urgent to clear the forest and to use the produce to build the new colony. Convicts were sent to cut the trees and saw the timber in nearby sawpits.

All timber harvesting sites have similar characteristics, despite the harvesting techniques changing with advancing technology. These characterisitics are:

  • a stand of harvestable trees
  • a method of moving the trees to the sawmill (usually a tramway)
  • the sawmill itself with accommodation for the workers
  • transport to the market.

Hut and dwelling sites

The forest has grown up in hundreds of clearings with hut remains that were made by people following agricultural pursuits, hunting and trapping for the fur trade, and for workers in the mines and sawmills. These range from well built structures to somewhat more temporary shelters.
More people used to live in the forest than do now. Evidence of dwellings associated with agricultural or pastoral attempts are often found in remote areas, a reminder of the trappers and shepherds who lived in the forest.  Smaller stone structures are likely to be associated with temporary accommodation for shepherds and snarers.


The FPA is responsible for monitoring forest practices standards through certificates of compliance in which heritage operational outcomes are assessed against the provisions for heritage management in the FPP. This process is reported by an FPO on behalf of the FPP applicant.  The FPA?s Compliance Program undertakes an annual independent assessment (audits) of a sample of operation areas which rigorously examines the outcomes of the planning and operations. The outcomes of these assessments  are reported in the FPA?s annual report.

Visual landscape management during forest operations

Tasmania is renowned and highly admired by both local residents and visitors for its scenic beauty and the distinctiveness and diversity of its landscape. Tasmania's landscape encompasses expansive natural mountains and ranges, unique wilderness regions, and the scenic and varied cultural landscapes of rural countryside and coastal regions.

Native forests and woodlands occur throughout all areas of the state and often provide the indispensable backdrop to all cities, towns and hamlets. These contribute to the natural scenic differences between Tasmania and most of the Australian mainland.

For local communities throughout all regions of the state, Tasmania's landscapes provide a satisfying and familiar quality and contribute to a sense of recognition and belonging. The landscape is also a key attraction of the state for the large numbers of visitors each year from the mainland and overseas. This is further recognised and promoted in images through the many books, calendars and the thousands of photographs taken home by visitors.

Forests are also valued commercially for their wood resources and the extraction and management of forest and trees can create changes in the landscape. It is critical therefore that the management of production and scenic amenity values, both for forested and rural landscapes, are planned in a balanced and integrated manner.

Visual landscape management of forests

Visual landscape values of the forest are addressed as part of the Tasmanian forest practices system. The desirability of conserving the natural beauty and amenity of the scenery of the Tasmanian countryside is a component of sustainable forest management under the Forest Practices Code and the Landscape manual and guidelines. The code states that 'operations… be designed to reduce visual impact and harmonise with the local visual character and land use patterns.'

The aim of managing visual landscape values in the forest practices system is to achieve an acceptable balance between protection of landscape character with good visual presentation of forest operations and the needs for efficient forest management. Priority is given to the landscapes with the highest visual values, as determined by their popularity for viewing by the public, their prominence and their level of scenic attraction.

The FPA?s visual management program provides the following :

  • principles and practice guidelines to assist forest practices officers plan and manage the visual effects of forest operations
  • training in visual landscape planning and management of forestry operations for forest planners and as part of process of training and authorising Forest Practices Officers (FPO)
  • monitoring compliance of forest operations with the visual landscape standards required by the Forest Practices Code. .

Examples of visually sensitive operations

Visual landscape analysis process

Forest and rural landscape values

The effects on the visual values of forest landscape must be considered by the Forest Practices Officer (FPO) who is planning the forest operations. A formal process is followed to determine the priority for visual values for each operational area, the exposure and prominence though analysis of location and viewing potential, and the design and treatment measures required to protect landscape character to provide good presentation of the operation within the scenery.

If determined that an unacceptable impact is likely, FPOs are required to reconsider coupe design, scale, timing and treatment for improved landscape appearance.

Identification of potential values

As discussed above, the priority of an operation's area for management of landscape is determined by review of the 'popularity for viewing by the public, its prominence and the level of scenic attraction.' These aspects are identified in the office by first reviewing the location of the operation on a map and checking for potential viewing from public roads and settlements using visible area analysis, grading of the public viewing point and classification of scenic quality from aerial photos guided by published tables.

Once combined, this information sets the visual management objective for each operation. The aim of this is to give a grading of the visual management priority and respective objectives to guide planning.

For most planned operations, visual aspects will not be of concern due to limited conflict with existing or proposed public use areas. For these, little additional review is necessary once the initial analysis is complete. This can often be a simple desktop exercise to verify a low level of concern for visual management issues. Alternatively, further work is carried out where potential visual concern is identified - as described below.

Field inspection

FPOs analysing visual issues of operations must think and review from outside the operational area. Field reconnaissance from roads and settled areas around the proposed operation is carried out to check potential viewing of the proposed operation. This is when additional locations to those chosen in the office may be found and other locations dismissed if they are screened from view of the coupe by foreground vegetation. Photographic records are then taken to provide a basis for analysis of likely effects and impact on the scenery of the future operation. At viewpoints records may be taken of surrounding landscape patterns and character and any existing visual changes present near the proposed coupe. This is the time also when review of the likely appearance of the operation is made (i.e. shape and flow of boundaries and scale of contrasting changes) and critical visual aspects of the operation as notified (i.e. skyline effects and steep areas to be exposed). Where impact is predicted in excess of the set visual management objective, further analysis has to be carried out to design options to address critical visual aspects and reduce excessive visual disturbance.

Office analysis

Varying levels of review are required depending on the type of operation, complexity of viewing conditions and the level of potential visual impact. It is possible to use photographs taken from a viewpoint as a basis for determining likely visual changes. This can include sketching directly on printed photos to estimate the effects of proposed operations. Although not always accurate, this technique is useful for operations seen at a relatively close distance of up to 2000m. As well as digital photography, computer analysis software assists planners to make precise predictions of changes and trial various options for reducing visual effects of operations. The key tools used are visible-area analysis and 3D modelling predictions or view simulations (see example below).

Such analysis is carried out from viewpoints that give representative viewing to the operational area. View simulations can be compared with photographs of the pre-harvest landscape and together these are used to trial designs that are most visually appropriate for each area of the landscape. Naturally appearing configuration of boundaries, reduced viewed scale of exposed clearings and subdued visual contrast of changes (i.e. through high retention level of forest canopy, especially on steep slopes exposed to viewing) are key parameters for successful design.

Forest practice plan

Final operations boundaries and prescriptions for management of visual landscape values are clearly defined and placed in the final forest practices plan (FPP) that the harvester will use.

In some cases the FPP may prescribe that the visual impacts must be progressively monitored from key viewpoints during the course of operations so that any adjustments can be made if required to achieve required results.



Overseas and interstate methods of landscape management are researched and reviewed in order to identify innovative methods. These may be adapted to advance forest visual management in Tasmania and address the demands of the changing forest industry. In addition, the findings from Tasmanian field trials and monitoring the effectiveness of visual management practice contribute to improving the guidelines for the visual presentation of forest operations. These guidelines form the basis in training forest industry staff.


As part of the FPO training course, the principles, analysis techniques and responsibilities in regard to visual landscape management are presented and assessed. Authorised FPOs are trained to:

  • understand visual landscape values and the importance of sensitivity management
  • plan for and manage natural and cultural landscape within a broad planning system for wood production forests
  • appreciate the legislation and specific documents that guide management of these values in Tasmania
  • determine the significance and practices to deal effectively to protect visual landscape values.


The FPA's Compliance Program organises an annual independent assessment of a sample of coupes. This rigorously examines the standard of planning and operational practice. Visual landscape outcomes are assessed as part of this program against the visual objectives set for each operation. This takes account of the context of the local landscape character. The outcomes of these assessments are reported in the FPA's annual report.


Content last modified September 16, 2013, 4:02 pm