Saturday, December 1, 2001

December BMP Q&A

By: Hughes Simpson, BMP Forester, Texas Forest Service

Q:   I just met with a landowner in a pre harvest conference and found out that he had a forestry water quality management plan (FWQMP). I also heard a radio commercial discussing this topic the very same day. What exactly is a FWQMP? Will this effect the way I conduct my harvest operations?

A:   First, I would like to commend you for having a pre-harvest conference with the landowner. This is an important part of the planning process and can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. In this meeting, you will know exactly what the landowner’s goals and objectives are for the operation, as well as find out important information on the tract that you will be working (streams, sensitive areas, property lines, area to be cut, road systems, etc). All parties are usually satisfied with the results of the harvest if one of these meetings is held.

The demands on Texas’ water supplies are constantly increasing due to our explosive population growth. We all need it to drink, cook, wash, and to enjoy recreational activities, so everyone is responsible for conserving and protecting water quality. Forest landowners now have another tool to assist them in this process.

A forestry water quality management plan is a management plan (a written document that outlines a course of action for a specified time period) that contains specific recommendations about using Best Management Practices (BMPs) to prevent erosion and protect water quality. The Texas Forest Service in cooperation with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the Natural Resource Conservation Service are promoting these plans to landowners.

These plans, introduced by the 73rd Texas legislature in Senate Bill 503, allow landowners to manage their land according to their own personal goals and stay in compliance with the state’s water quality objectives. This bill also amends the Water Code to grant certified forestry water quality management plans the same legal status as a Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission point source pollution permit. In order to receive this protection, WQMPs must be certified by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board. This is a simple process and at any time the landowner is able to drop out of the program.

As a logger, you have the responsibility to help a landowner carry out his plan when harvesting timber. This is important because WQMPs mention the necessity of following all state recommended BMPs during forestry activities. In doing this, you are ensuring that the landowner is meeting his objectives and protecting water quality at the same time. If you have a question regarding BMPs, please call me at (936) 639-8180.

* This article was published in the December 2001 issue of the Texas Logger

Thursday, November 1, 2001

November BMP Q&A

By: Hughes Simpson, BMP Forester, Texas Forest Service

Q:   I just received a copy of a Texas BMP Monitoring Checklist in the mail the other day from the Texas Forest Service regarding one of my logging operations. Would you give me an overview of this program, the number of inspections you have completed so far, and how well the forestry community is doing in following the recommended BMP guidelines?

A:   Sure! The Texas BMP compliance monitoring program is currently in the fifth round. Evaluations are conducted throughout East Texas not only to determine if BMPs are being followed, but also to see if they are functioning properly. The data that is collected is compiled into a formal report and analyzed. This information is extremely important because it shows how well voluntary efforts are protecting water quality.
The results that are gathered are used primarily for educational purposes only. In the event that a landowner is found to be violating forestry best management practices, recommendations will be made on how to correct the possible problems. No citation or fine will be issued.

This program requires the Texas Forest Service to monitor 150 sites every two years. Random selection of these sites is critical, and is achieved primarily through aerial detection of forestry operations. These sites may include any “normal” forestry activity (thinnings, clearcuts, site preparation, planting, etc.) and preferably have occurred within the last year.

The three major ownership groups that are targeted through these evaluations are public (mainly National Forests), industry (International Paper Company, Louisiana Pacific Corporation, and Temple Inland Forests), and private landowners. Before any BMP evaluation is conducted, permission must be granted by the landowner.

Ninety forestry sites have already been evaluated in this current round of BMP compliance monitoring. The breakdown of these sites show that 9 are under public ownership, 40 are owned by private landowners, and 41 have occurred on industry land.

Significant improvements have been made (so far) since the last round of monitoring achieved the highest ever BMP compliance (88.6%) in the program’s existence. Public ownership (97.9%) led the way last round, followed by industry (94.2%) and the private landowner (81.2%). An increase in all ownership groups, most notably the private landowner, has led to an early compliance rate in the low 90s.

What can you do to improve your BMP compliance? Statistical analysis shows that loggers that have attended the BMP training workshop score higher on the random evaluations. Familiarizing landowners that you come in contact with on the importance of protecting water quality is also another great way to do this. If you have a question regarding BMPs, please call me at (936) 639-8180.

* This article was published in the November 2001 issue of the Texas Logger