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Article: Forestry Best Management Practices - BMPs
Forestry Best Management Practices – BMPs

After we have sold your timber and the excitement of receiving a top-dollar price has subsided, it is time to conduct the harvest. Supervision of the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMP’s) during your timber harvest is a primary part of our work. Many private forestland owners may not even know what BMP’s are and, if they do, they probably haven’t given much consideration to how to implement them. However, they are critical to a successful harvest and the future productivity of the land.

BMP’s are techniques or practices that are recommended by the North Carolina Forest Service for the protection of water quality during land disturbing activities such as a timber harvest. Almost all BMP’s focus on limiting, reducing, or preventing the most common type of water pollutant associated with forestry operations – Sediment.

Timber sales will usually require the implementation of two or more of the following BMP’s:

  • Pre-harvest Planning
  • Forest Roads / Skid Trails
  • Log Decks
  • Stream Crossings
  • Streamside Management Zones (SMZ)

Pre-harvest planning is the first and perhaps most important phase of the harvest operation. When we prepare your timber sale for marketing, we design the timber sale in a manner that provides the logger the easiest, most cost effective way to harvest your timber while meeting your management goals. We identify the need for most of the BMP’s during our timber inventory, before the logging begins. Good pre-harvest planning helps to identify problems or the potential for problems before they get out of hand and require costly repair and increases timber sale revenues. Installation of forest roads and major skid trails, location of the logging deck, and the identification of SMZ’s are often identified in the timber sale prospectus. Most importantly, we meet with the timber buyer and logger at the beginning of the harvest to plan BMP’s and open a line of communication so you receive a great job.

Forest roads and skid trails are prevalent on all logging jobs. If an access road must be installed prior to harvest, BMP’s such as water turn-outs, ditches, culverts, and broad based dips may need to be installed to limit erosion and water run-off. Existing access roads may need to be re-seeded or graded upon the completion of the harvest. Skid trails often require water bars on slopes, so run-off can be channeled off roads and absorbed in forested buffers. Critical areas may even be seeded and strawed or covered with logging debris to help stabilize them. Often, this rehabilitation work is done in the final days of the harvest.

Log decks are the most visible and active area of a timber harvest. BMP’s used to minimize water quality problems associated with log decks include location on drier sites, location of sites that are sufficiently flat to minimize erosion while still allowing draining and reinforcement of soil strength with mats or gravel.

Stream crossings typically require the most rehabilitation and BMP consideration on a logging job. It is here that harvest equipment comes into direct contact with water flow and loose soil. Most loggers use BMP’s such as portable steel / wooden bridge sections, culverts, or log mats to cross streams with skid trails. Crossings should always to be installed perpendicular to the stream channel. Once the crossing is installed, it should be monitored regularly to see that the stream’s water flow is not inhibited. Upon completion of the harvest, the bridge, culvert, or mat must be removed and all logging debris cleaned from the channel. Often it is necessary to install water bars, place brush or straw on the loose soil and/or seed the skid trail and banks of the channel.

Streamside Management Zones (SMZ’s) are necessary on most timber sales. Local, state, and/or federal laws dictate the need for SMZ’s to buffer bodies of water (creeks, rivers, lakes, etc.) where timber is being harvested. In the Piedmont of North Carolina, SMZ’s are installed along creeks, often where the timber type changes from pine to hardwood or where the slope is reduced. In general, SMZ’s are often about 50’wide, but this can vary widely from one location to another. Larger sawtimber can usually be marked for harvest out of portions of the SMZ’s. An additional benefit of SMZ’s, besides buffering drains to help reduce erosion and run-off, is that they make excellent wildlife corridors and create visual barriers in larger clearcuts.

In conclusion, BMP’s are really “common sense” applications designed to limit or prevent problems now and in the future. When we conduct your timber sale and supervise the harvest operation, you can be sure that we are implementing BMP’s to protect your forestland and ensure that it remains productive for future harvests.

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