[Tagging] The endless debate about "landcover" as a top-level tag

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny+osm at gmail.com
Fri Jun 8 15:32:30 UTC 2018

On Fri, Jun 8, 2018 at 4:25 AM, Mateusz Konieczny <matkoniecz at tutanota.com>

> 8. Jun 2018 00:48 by kevin.b.kenny+osm at gmail.com:
> In the meantime, there is no supported tagging to show 'forestry' as a
> land use rather than asserting 'every square metre of this polygon is
> covered with trees.'
> I see no reason whatsoever to render this kind of landuse on general
> purpose map.
The "No. You can't have that." answer, as predicted. But I strongly

Let me take a step back.

I'm chiefly concerned with how I ought to be tagging objects for which I
maintain imports. I simply want to have some tagging available that will
neither sacrifice rendering nor incur the wrath of the ontologists.

Among these are some areas that have titles like 'State Forest'. They are
well delineated. They are signed. While they lack developed facilities for
recreation (typically limited to some blazed trails, some unpaved parking,
and perhaps a notice board and register book at a trailhead), they offer
many recreational opportunities for hikers, cyclists, equestrians, skiers,
snowshoers, snowmobilists, canoeists, bird watchers, hunters, trappers and
fisherfolk. They are open to the public, in general, whenever active
harvesting is not in progress and the area is not newly planted for
reforestation. They are at present tagged 'boundary=protected_area' with a
protection class corresponding to the regulatory regime in effect for a
given area.

They are not parks, and surely not national parks, but they occupy a
similar space in the public consciousness, because of the recreational
opportunities they offer. According to the Wiki description, 'leisure=park'
is clearly wrong - it envisions considerably more developed facilities than
a patch of woodland. Still, the general public would surely expect that a
map would include them - just as it includes parks.

They are currently tagged redundantly. The tag that they all share is
'leisure=nature_reserve'. The term is not quite correct but it is nearly
infinitely elastic. Since they are created to conserve land for sustainable
forestry, they do have the conservation of nature as at least one
objective. In my region there's a pretty broad consensus that it's the
'least worst' tagging that still renders.

They are also tagged 'boundary=protected_area protect_class=6'. This may be
inaccurate, but these areas are listed as such on the IUCN site as well as
OSM. At present some are also incorrectly marked 'landuse=forest', partly
because when the import was performed, the Wiki happened to be in a state
where it described the tag as meaning 'land managed for forestry', and the
import followed the Wiki advice. Nobody raised the issue on talk-us or
imports when the import was discussed.

The key aspect that makes the general public expect to see these areas
rendered is the public recreational use. Nevertheless, that is a secondary
use - the primary land use is that these areas are productive forests.

Because many of the areas are large, they comprise ponds, mud flats,
meadows, scrub and shrub, alder thickets - nearly the entire ecologic
succession. Many of the ponds are cyclic and may in a few decades be
woodland again, depending on where the beavers take up residence next. Even
without human intervention, the land cover is not stable. Modern management
does not attempt to extirpate the beaver (as it did a century ago!) but
instead recognizes this as a key process in rebuilding the soil, preventing
flooding and erosion, and supporting needed biodiversity. Hence, the entire
area is not 'natural=wood' nor 'landcover=trees'. It has varied landcover
that I generally map only for specific projects such as large-scale trail
maps. Instead, I rely on third-party datasets based on multi-band and
multi-season satellite imagery to identify the ecozones.

So I return to the question: Is there 'correct' tagging for these areas,
which are widespread in the areas that I map and are important to the
public? What is the best strategy for keeping these areas rendered in the
short term while still describing them correctly so that future rendering
improvements can exploit the mapped information?

I ask this question about once a year - and every time, a significant
fraction of respondents give me answers that amount to, "You can't have
that because it doesn't fit the ontology," or "You shouldn't want to render
that because so few people are interested in that sort of primitive outdoor
recreation", or "the fact that the land use follows a property line makes
it parcel data, and we don't do cadastral information", or any number of
other answers that dismiss the question rather than trying to answer it.

I don't care what the 'correct' tagging is. I simply get tired of hearing
that everything I try is 'incorrect.' or that features that many in the
general public in my region care about are too specialized to render.
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