The Forest Landowner and Water Quality
As stewards of the nation's forest lands and the waters
flowing from them, forest landowners have a special responsibility to
protect our natural resources.
The Federal Clean Water Act of 1987 requires that
proper steps be taken to prevent pollution. Pollution resulting
from soil erosion can be controlled by using Best Management Practices
|Best Management Practices, (BMPs) are any practical, and usually
inexpensive, measures used to reduce water pollution.
- Water originating from undisturbed forest
land is virtually unpolluted. Land disturbing activities during harvesting
and other forestry
practices can cause pollution if BMPs are not used. Most states
regulate timber harvests on private land; therefore, it is up to the landowner
to ensure that BMPs are properly installed and maintained.
- BMPs and pre-harvest
planning are especially important in karst terrains. For specific
information on constructing and maintaining
BMPs, refer to the LOGGERS BMP HANDBOOK available from your state
BMPs for Timber Harvesting
- Pre-Harvesting Planning should be done
to determine which BMPs are needed. Proper location and construction
of roads, skid trails,
and log landings will prevent most erosion problems. Consult a
qualified professional who understands karst. The forestry consultant
a Forest Management Plan in detail before work begins, which will
describe any recommended BMPs.
- Roads, Skid Trails, and Landings should
be located away from streams, springs, and karst drainage ways. Water
should be diverted off roads by turn-out
ditches, broad-base dips, culvert pipes, or other accepted practices.
Crossings should be made with temporary bridges or culvert
pipes. Fords are sometimes acceptable if the stream bottom is rock
and the banks are stable.
- Stream Side or Spring Management Zone (SMZ) is an unharvested
area a minimum of 50 feet wide on each side
of any stream channel or spring. Across the rest of the site, timber
should be selectively harvested in a way that will leave the forest
The SMZ will filter out most sediment and nutrient runoff from disturbed
areas and protect stream or spring quality. The buffer zone also will
compaction by heavy equipment which can reduce infiltration and groundwater
- Wildlife Benefits. Stream side or spring management
zones protect water quality and temperature important to fish and
aquatic life. The buffers
also preserve travel lanes and habitat diversity important to all
wildlife. Roads and trails can be seeded with native plant species
which provide wildlife food and cover.
- Stabilizing Disturbed Areas immediately
after the cutting is complete will reduce erosion which could continue
for several years.
Any bare soil with a slope greater than 5 percent or which is subject
to erosion should be limed, fertilized, seeded, and covered to prevent
soil from washing away. Native plants that also enhance wildlife
habitat should be selected.
- Horse Logging is becoming more popular
with landowners as a low-impact method of selectively harvesting
timber on steep or sensitive
terrains. Small horse logging businesses exist in many rural areas.
Call your local Department of Forestry or small business development
for more information.
Maintaining Best Management Practices
- Best Management Practices can
easily be destroyed if they are not protected and maintained
until the disturbed land has healed. After
loggers have left the site,
the landowner is usually responsible for maintaining BMPs. Cost-share programs
are available to help pay a portion of the cost of most reforestation and restoration
- Traffic should be restricted in the logged area, especially
during wet weather. Old haul roads should be blocked to prevent unauthorized
access by 4-wheelers, but maintained so that water can drain from
the road surface. The drainage ditches and culverts should be kept
fences, ponds, and other structures to slow water flow should be
checked and repaired regularly.
- Waste wood debris, or slash, left
on the site will also catch sediment and slow runoff velocity.
Slash should not be deposited or dumped
into cave entrances or sinkholes; however, as this can damage habitat,
recreational values, water quality, and normal karst drainage processes.
For further information, contact your state Department of Forestry.