Saturday, June 1, 2002

June BMP Q&A

By: Hughes Simpson, BMP Forester, Texas Forest Service

Q:   Five years ago, we harvested timber and left an extra wide (200 feet on either side) Streamside Management Zone (SMZ) along an intermittent stream. The erosion hazard on this tract is very slight due to the slope and soil type, and it was reforested the following year. The reason for leaving such a large zone was for wildlife habitat. This property is currently under a hunting lease and by doing this, my lessees will benefit from improved hunting. However, I would still like to thin this SMZ in the future, but do not want to wipe out part of my 4 year old plantation to ensure that a set is not located inside the SMZ. What can I do?

A:   First off, I am very pleased to hear that you have left such a wide SMZ. This will not only provide larger travel corridors for wildlife, but it will also function in greater water quality protection. Maybe now your lessees will understand if the price of their hunting lease rises.

Streamside Management Zones (SMZs) protect water quality and provide wildlife habitat
The Texas Forestry Best Management Practices “Bluebook” recommends locating sets at least 50 feet away from the edge of the SMZ. This will help minimize the chance of erosion and sedimentation from occurring, as well as limit the possibility of a chemical spill reaching the stream. Strict adherence to this voluntary guideline would direct you to construct the set in the newly established plantation.

However, the book also states that SMZs should have a minimum width of 50 feet on either side of perennial and intermittent streams, lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. Since the width of your SMZ was extended past the minimum guidelines for purposes other than water quality protection (wildlife habitat), I do not think it is necessary to clear part of your new plantation for this set. The extra width on your SMZ should give you plenty of room to comply with both recommendations.

During the thinning operation, I would suggest locating the set just inside the area that was left for wildlife habitat. This maximizes the distance from the set to the intermittent stream while allowing you to save your new plantation. The residual density in the first 50 feet along the stream should be at least 50 square feet of basal area per acre, evenly distributed. Skid trails should be minimized in this area also.

If possible, sets should have a slight slope to permit drainage and be on firm, well drained soils that dry quickly. This practice can prevent mud holes from forming. Equipment that is serviced on-site should be done very carefully to avoid spills. Used chemicals should be drained into containers and properly disposed in accordance with all laws and regulations. Any trash associated with the thinning operation should be removed. If you have a question regarding BMPs, please call me at (936) 639-8180.

* This article was published in the June 2002 issue of the Texas Logger