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

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny+osm at gmail.com
Wed Jun 13 13:01:38 UTC 2018

On Wed, Jun 13, 2018 at 8:00 AM Warin <61sundowner at gmail.com> wrote:

> On 13/06/18 19:48, Martin Koppenhoefer wrote:
> 2018-06-13 11:44 GMT+02:00 Mateusz Konieczny <matkoniecz at tutanota.com>:
>> 13. Jun 2018 11:42 by dieterdreist at gmail.com:
>> 2018-06-13 11:36 GMT+02:00 Mateusz Konieczny <matkoniecz at tutanota.com>:
>>> Obviously - ownership would be recorded in owner tag (rarely done for
>>> obvious reasons) and
>> what are the obvious reasons not to record if land is owned by the public
>> or privately owned?
>> Complicated and boring to survey, limited usefulness of this information.
> the usefulness of knowing the land ownership depends on the jurisdiction.
> The amount of time and effort in obtaining the information may be beyond
> the mappers tolerance.
> The may want to map other things with that time that they see as much more
> important and usefull to them.
> If the name ends with "State Forest" you know who operates it, it is
> ultimately the State Government .
> Access to state owned forestry areas is normally public.
> Closed or at least restricted when logging or there is a special event on
> - like a car rally.
> These things are generally understood, infrequent and so not normally
> mapped. These exceptions are what OSM does not cater for well.


I don't do a lot of landcover mapping, because I render my own maps with
third-party landcover data. I do landcover for detail mapping in my own
neighbourhood, for producing large-scale trail maps of specific small
areas, or to override trouble spots in the third-party database.willing o

For landuse mapping, what chiefly concerns me is recreational opportunities.

To this end, I maintain a few imports of public lands in New York State, as
well as mapping various public-access lands that are in private hands. I do
try to map access in places where it's complicated. Some of these lands are
managed for forestry - and I have no tag available to indicate this.
Neither 'natural=wood' nor 'landuse=forest' appear to mean anything more
than 'shade this area green on the map, and draw trees on it.'

If this discussion reaches some sort of rough consensus, I'm certainly
willing to do mechanical edits updating the few thousand areas that I
imported. (Mechanical edits to correct systematic errors in imported data
are, as I understand it, acceptable.) I'm not very happy with the use of
those imports as evidence of 'this is tagging practice' - the current
import is more 'least worst' tagging that will remain consistent with
current rendering and with imports in neighbouring states. I'm NOT willing
to retag with mechanical edits if the price of the retagging will be that
the State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, Watershed Recreation Areas,
and so on will disappear from the main map.

What I want:

Showing that land is treed ('natural=wood' or the proposed
'landcover=trees') is easy enough. 'landuse=forest' appears to be
synonymous with both 'natural=wood' and 'landcover=trees' and so isn't
useful to me, although I've tried consistently to use it to indicate
designated land use and not landcover. The result has been rendering gaffes
where trees are overlaid on water - but they don't bother me excessively,
since most of those ponds will have trees again in a few decades, as human
and beaver remodeling of the land shifts elsewhere.

'landuse=forest' to designate landcover is unworkable. As Warin said in an
earlier post, a piece of land has one use. (I oversimplify; land may have
secondary uses, for example, land managed for forestry with public
recreation as a secondary objective, but NEITHER of those implies that a
particular square metre is or is not tree-covered.) An object like
https://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/175474 is an example. The land USE
is, correctly, military - the land is used, for instance, for live fire
exercises. The land COVER for large parts of the Academy is trees - what an
ecologist would call 'temperate mixed forest'.

That treed land cover is contiguous with Bear Mountain/Harriman State Park
(which should be boundary=national_park, but that's a different argument),
Black Rock Forest (private land open to public outside certain seasons),
Storm King State Park (managed, effectively, as leisure=nature_reserve),
Storm King Art Center (amenity=museum - an outdoor sculpture gallery in a
partly-wooded setting), and various private holdings (where I'm not trying
to tag land use).

So, what I'm after is: some tag that I can use for something like the
International Paper tract in the Adirondacks (not mapped because (a) I
haven't got to it, and (b) the tagging would be just too controversial). It
is owned by a private common-stock corporation. It is managed to grow trees
for paper (as you might imagine). It is ordinarily open to the public to
hike, ski, snowshoe, and so on except in areas where active logging or
reforestation is in progress. Several public trails traverse it. It is not
a nature reserve of any sort. It is private forest land. (I oversimplify;
it's within the boundaries of the Adirondack Park, and so regulated tightly
by the Adirondack Park Agency, which is a public-private partnership. It's
complicated, but to a first approximation, it's 'private land open to the

So I'd like to see landuse=forestry foot=yes ski=yes
operator='International Paper' etc. for this parcel. The really important
aspect is the access, but it's a little strange to have access tagging
without the object's representing some sort of tangible thing.

I'd earlier have said, 'landuse=forest', but that tag has become too
ambiguous. There's no good tag available to me. I'm not convinced by the
arguments that we can't introduce a new tag: "It will just be abused the
same way that landuse=forest was" is simply a counsel of despair. "It
conflicts with existing practice." Any new tag conflicts with existing
practice. "There are too many areas out there to change them." I'm
volunteering to change the few thousand that I entered, as needed. I'm sure
I'm not the only one who's willing to put in the work!
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