Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Monday, November 1, 2004

November BMP Q&A

By: Shane Harrington, BMP Forester (Ret.), Texas Forest Service

Q:  I know that the Texas Forest Service conducts evaluations on how well we are using BMPs, is there any news on how well we are doing?

A:  The Best Management Practices (BMP) Implementation Monitoring Program was started in 1991 in order to measure the degree of implementation with BMP guidelines by the forestry community, or in other words, measure how well BMPs are being used properly in the field. Every two years 150 sites are randomly chosen, and “normal silvicultural” operations are evaluated for the presence, when applicable, of BMPs and whether or not they are functioning properly.  “Normal silviculture” refers to sites that are being managed on a sustainable basis for timber production and does not include sites that are being cleared or converted for other uses.  Operations that are selected for evaluation include public, private, and forest industry lands where landowner consent is obtained. 

The BMP program has been a very successful voluntary, non-regulatory program.  The level of BMP implementation from the last round of evaluations is 91.5% its highest level since we began evaluating in 1991. The Texas Forest Service has completed five BMP implementation reports and they can be found on the Texas Forest Service website at
Currently the Texas Forest Service is working on the sixth BMP implementation report, which will be complete in the fall of 2005.  To date, the Texas Forest Service has evaluated 52 operations throughout East Texas and so far the overall BMP implementation rate is 89.9%. This basically states that at any given time almost 9 out of 10 operations on private forestlands are complying with BMP guidelines   However, this is only an early look at the implementation rate and the final number may change slightly upon the completion of all 150 site evaluations. 

Landownership in East Texas is constantly changing and today most landowners are classified into one of four categories.  The first category is the private or NIPF landowner and this is the primary owner of forestland in East Texas.  Private landowners account for about 61% of the forestland in the 43 counties in East Texas.  So far 23 operations on private forestlands have been evaluated in 13 counties with an overall BMP implementation rate of 83.3% with Liberty County having the highest implementation rate at 97.5%.  This basically state that at any given time roughly 8 out of 10 operations on private forestlands is complying with BMP guidelines.

Forest industry owns about 17% of the forestland in East Texas and with some companies divesting their land this percentage is becoming smaller.  The Texas Forest Service has evaluated 18 operations on industry lands in 9 counties and is showing a 95% BMP implementation rate with operations in Cass, Hardin, and Tyler Counties complying at a 100% BMP implementation rate.

There is a relatively new landowner in East Texas, which accounts for about 15% of the forestland.  This new landowner is a group called Timberland Investment Management Organizations or TIMOs for short.  These organizations are buying forestland and managing it for investors who want to invest their money n forestlands rather than the stock market or other types of long term investments.  So far there have been 7 evaluations on TIMO lands in 5 counties with an overall BMP implementation rate of 95.2% with operations in Liberty and Polk Counties complying at a 100% implementation rate.

The smallest landowner, owning only 7% of the forestland, is public ownership, which is made up of national and a few state forests. Public ownership in Texas is relatively small when compared to some of the other southern states. Since silvicultural operations do not occur regularly on public lands the number of evaluations is smaller when compared to the other landowners in East Texas. To date there have been 4 evaluations on public lands in 4 counties showing an overall BMP implementation rate of 95.9% with operations in Sabine and Walker Counties complying at a 100% BMP implementation rate.

Again these evaluations are voluntary and done only with the consent of the landowner. The BMP implementation reports are completed roughly every two years and are used to help keep the use of BMPs during silvicultural operations non-regulatory in the State of Texas. Hopefully in the future we can see a continued improvement of the BMP implementation rate. Remember that one way we can continue to improve is to recognize the importance of using BMPs to protect water quality by treating each site that you work as if it will be evaluated. If you have any questions regarding the BMP implementation reports or BMPs in general please call me at (936) 639-8180.

* This article was published in the November 2004 issue of the Texas Logger

Friday, October 1, 2004

BMP Informer - October 2004

October Issue of the BMP Informer Now Available

October BMP Q&A

By: Shane Harrington, BMP Forester (Ret.), Texas Forest Service

Q:  I am a logger in Southeast Texas and for the past few weeks I have been watching the hurricanes slam the East Coast.  The possibility of a hurricane causing damage to timber here in East Texas is not too far-fetched.  Even more damage can be caused here by wildfires, wind, and Southern Pine Beetle outbreaks that could happen at anytime.  Do I still need to follow BMP guidelines during salvage operations when I am trying to get the timber out as quickly as possible?

A:  Great question.  Timber can sustain a lot of damage from events such as hurricanes, wildfires, and Southern Pine Beetle outbreaks.  Hopefully we will not have any widespread timber damage here in East Texas.  However, if you find yourself conducting a salvage operation after such an event BMPs should be implemented just as if it were a normal harvest operation. 

Generally there is a since of urgency when it comes to harvesting timber in a salvage operation because damaged trees are more susceptible to insects and disease, lowering their economic value.  It is still important to implement BMPs during these situations.  BMPs are effective in  preventing or reducing erosion, allowing your land to be managed in a sustainable manner.    Following are a few recommendations to consider while conducting a salvage operation.

Prior to the salvage operation, the ground should be inspected to ensure that it is stable enough to support heavy machinery.  Often times after an event such as a hurricane, tropical storm, or even an East Texas thunderstorm, the soil is saturated and operating heavy machinery on these soils can cause rutting.  Rutting creates channels for water flow, which can lead to widespread soil movement.  This reduces site productivity, decreases tree growth and financial returns, and impacts water quality.  Firelanes installed to control wildfires should be cleaned up and stabilized with the proper water control structures to prevent additional erosion. 

Streamside Management Zones (SMZs) should be visibly marked and all operations within the SMZ should be kept to a minimum.  It may be necessary to flag the SMZ for greater visibility, because it is sometimes difficult for machine operators to see the original painted line with the additional debris on the ground.  All roads, skid trails, decks, and firelanes should be located outside the SMZ.  Removal of any felled timber within the SMZ should be done by dispersed skidding or by cable retrieval.  This is done to prevent damaging the filtering capabilities of the SMZ and to keep the forest floor virtually undisturbed.  Remember, even in salvage operations, 50 square feet of basal area should be left in the SMZ.  Try to leave trees that have not been too severely damaged.    

Personal safety should also be stressed when conducting a salvage operation.  Treetops and limbs may be left dangling above the ground and could cause serious injury to ground personnel.  It is also important to be aware of machine operators, especially when visibility is impaired from excessive debris.

For other recommendations regarding BMPs and salvage operations please refer to the Texas Forest Service BMP Bluebook.  If you do not have a copy of the Bluebook you can obtain a copy from your local Texas Forest Service office or online at  If you have any questions or comments regarding BMPs please call me at (936) 639-8180.

* This article was published in the October 2004 issue of the Texas Logger

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

BMP Trivia Question

Log landings should have a slight slope in order to promote drainage, allowing the landing to dry quickly after rain events. According to the Bluebook what is the recommended slope percentage for landings?

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Sunday, August 1, 2004

August BMP Q&A

By: Shane Harrington, BMP Forester (Ret.), Texas Forest Service

Q:   Recently a landowner asked me why I left trees along the stream bank and why the trees I cut were directionally felled away from the stream.  I really did not have a good answer for him because this is the way that I was always taught.  A friend of mine told me that I should send this question in to get an answer as to why we do this.  Can you give me a good answer for these questions so next time, I will be able to give the landowner a better answer?

A:   This is a very good question and thanks to your friend for recommending that you send this in.  Many people may be like you and only do this because that is what they grew up doing or was taught.

First of all lets look at why trees should be felled away from a stream.  The reason we recommend doing this is to minimize the chance or amount of logging debris that can enter a stream during a harvest operation within a Streamside Management Zone (SMZ).  The problem with debris entering a stream is that if enough of it is deposited, a dam can form.  When a stream becomes blocked the water has nowhere to go, so it begins to back up on itself.  This can cause flooding of the surrounding land and eventually the stream will create a new channel around the dam.  Now not only do you have logging debris in the stream but also a large amount of dirt from the newly formed channel. The sedimentation that has occurred not only impacts aquatic wildlife, but also raises treatment costs to make the water suitable for human consumption.  The Bluebook recommends that trees that can only be felled across a stream or into a stream should not be harvested. 

Why should trees be left along the stream bank?  The answer to this question is much like the answer to the previous question.  When trees along a stream bank are harvested, the bank may become unstable.  When the root system of the tree dies the bank will begin to sluff off or erode into the stream channel.  Before removing the trees from the stream bank the soil was held in place by the root system of the trees.  The excessive amount of sedimentation will have an immediate impact on the stream.  The soil moving into the stream could potentially dam up the stream much like logging debris can with the result being the same. 

Not only does the removal of bank trees cause the stream bank to become unstable but it also reduces the amount of shade that once covered the stream channel.  This increases the water temperature of the stream, making it hard for fish and other aquatic species to live in the stream.  The removal of bank trees will also increase the flood plain of that particular stream.  A stream that was unlikely to flood during the winter months will probably now flood covering a greater area of the surrounding lands.  The Bluebook recommends that trees found along the stream bank should be left to provide shade and to stabilize the stream bank.

Remember that harvesting within an SMZ is acceptable as long as 50ft2 of basal area is left in the SMZ.  If you are not familiar with basal area the Texas Forest Service has a chart on its website that will aid you in determining basal area or you can leave 50% crown cover and achieve the 50ft2 of basal area.  If you need a copy of the Bluebook you can get one from your local TFS office or view it online at  If you have any questions or comments regarding BMPs please call me at (936) 639-8180.

* This article was published in the August 2004 issue of the Texas Logger   

Thursday, July 1, 2004

BMP Trivia Question

In Texas, the use of Best Management Practices is voluntary, except when operating in a Jurisdictional Wetland. List any five of the fifteen mandatory road BMPs that must be followed during a silvicultural operation in a wetland.


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BMP Informer - July 2004

July Issue of the BMP Informer Now Available

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

June BMP Q&A

By: Shane Harrington, BMP Forester (Ret.), Texas Forest Service

Q:   I own a tract of timber that has several streams running through it and I am planning on cutting the tract in the near future.  Although I have heard of Streamside Management Zones (SMZs) I know very little about them.  Do all streams need these SMZs and if not how do you tell which streams do?

A:   This is a very good question.   To start with not all streams need an SMZ left along the stream bank.  Streams are divided into three groups (perennial, intermittent, or ephemeral) based on the amount of time during the year that water flows through it.  The Texas Forest Service recommends that a 50-foot SMZ be left along side perennial and intermittent streams.  Professional judgment should be used on ephemeral streams or drains.  Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish one type of stream from the other, especially in transition zones where one type of stream is turning into another type.  To help you in determining stream type, I have listed some common characteristics for each stream type below.

A perennial stream will flow at least 90% of the year and have a well-defined channel.  This channel will be winding or sinuous and show evidence of soil and debris movement.  Water pools will be present, even during dry conditions.  High water marks are sometimes noticed along the stream, as well as wetland vegetation, such as mosses, ferns, and some woody species.  Gray soils with red specks are associated with these types of streams.  Remember that the Texas Forest Service recommends leaving a minimum width of 50 feet on either side of perennial streams.

An intermittent stream will flow at least 30% of the year and this is usually during the winter months.  Intermittent streams also have a well-defined channel that is winding or sinuous.  The channel will also show evidence of soil and debris movement from one part of the stream to another.  Water pools are only present during wet conditions and high water marks along with wetland vegetation will occur in these areas.  Intermittent streams usually have brown soils with gray soils mixed in.  Again the Texas Forest Service recommends leaving a minimum width of 50 feet on either side of intermittent streams.

An ephemeral stream or drain only flows during or shortly after rain events.  These streams do not always have well-defined channels because they are short lived.  Ephemeral streams are generally always straight, lack water pools, and high water marks and wetland vegetation are not found.  The soils in this area are usually characteristic of the surrounding lands.  The Texas Forest Service recommends that professional judgment be used in determining whether or not an SMZ should be left along ephemeral streams.  Some may choose to leave a small SMZ or stringer along an ephemeral stream while others may choose not to leave one.

SMZs are very important in protecting our streams from increased temperatures, excessive erosion, and provides habitat for various species of wildlife.  SMZs can be thinned in order to remove some of the economic value, however it is important to leave a minimum of 50 square feet of basal area, evenly distributed.  Senate Bill 977 can help reduce the financial burden of leaving an SMZ.  If any debris from the thinning of an SMZ should end up in the stream, it should be removed immediately to prevent the stream flow from becoming blocked.     

The recommendations for SMZs as well as other BMPs can be found in the Bluebook.  If you need a copy of the Bluebook you can get one from your local Texas Forest Service office or you can view it online at  If you have any questions or comments about BMPs please feel free to call me at (936) 639-8180.

* This article was published in the June 2004 issue of the Texas Logger

Saturday, May 1, 2004


By: Shane Harrington, BMP Forester (Ret.), Texas Forest Service

Q:   I have been in the logging business for several years now and I pride myself in the fact that I try my best to follow BMP guidelines in all situations. Lately it seems that every time I set up on a tract it begins to rain and it stays wet for several days and possibly weeks. How can I deal with all of this wet weather?

A:   Are any of you logging out of a canoe yet? There has been a lot of rain here in East Texas the past couple of months. I am sure that many of you are feeling the effects of all the recent wet weather. There are three questions that are commonly asked about wet weather logging: can I log during wet conditions, what, if any, impacts can logging have when it’s too wet, and what can I do when it’s too wet to log?

Wet weather logging can have negative impacts if done improperly
Can you log during wet conditions? The answer to that question is yes but caution is needed and should be used during wet weather logging operations. There are several things that you need to pay close attention to if you are going to conduct a wet weather logging operation. Rutting is the biggest concern, it should be kept to a minimum and should not exceed 6 inches in depth for more than 50 feet in length. High flotation or dual tires may be used on skidders to help reduce rutting and soil compaction. You can also lay timber down in your skid rows to create a pole road, which will help minimize rutting. As always, attention should also be given to stream crossings. These structures should be properly installed and stabilized to help reduce the chance of it washing out during a rain event. Pages 47 – 51 of the BMP bluebook give recommendations on how to properly install stream crossings. Haul roads and skid trails are other areas that need to be examined. Maintaining these systems will help ensure that they do not become impassable either through washing or excessive rutting. Recommended specifications for properly maintaining your haul roads can be found on pages 30 – 33 of the BMP bluebook.

What, if any, impacts can logging have when it’s too wet? The biggest area of concern here would be rutting. As stated in the previous paragraph rutting should be kept to a minimum. Rutting is a primary concern because it can potentially change the hydrology and drainage of the land, cause heavy or excessive erosion through the channeling of water, and can cause soil compaction. Soil compaction will negatively impact site productivity reducing the landowner’s return on investment through decreased growing potential and increased site preparation costs. Another thing to be conscious of when logging on wet tracts is the amount of mud that you are depositing on the highways and county roads. Mud on the roadway may pose a danger to motorists in numerous ways. Motorists who suddenly approach mud in the roadway may try to avoid the mud, which could cause an accident. During a rain event mud can cause the roadway to become slick, whichcould result in a motorist losing traction and possibly causing an accident. To help reduce the amount of mud being deposited on the roadway some type of approach such as gravel should be put down to help clean off the tires before entering the roadway.

What can I do when it is too wet to log? This time can be used to start planning for future jobs and to take a look at past logging jobs that you have conducted. Before moving onto a tract, plan carefully by using a soil survey map, topographical map, and landowner advice to determine how rain events will affect your operation, A soil survey map is useful because it will tell you what type of soil you will be working on and what the limitations are of that particular soil type. You should try to avoid bottomland sites and sites with heavy clays until the summer months when it is traditionally dryer. Plan on operating on sandy soils during the wetter months. Use topographical maps to calculate the drainage areas for the site to ensure that you install stream crossings that are adequate enough to handle the water flow from an unexpected rain event. The landowner can tell you about areas of his land that may be potential problem sections that you should either avoid or use caution while operating in these areas. You can also use this time to go back and look at past tracts that you have harvested. Take a look at the BMPs that you implemented and see if they were constructed properly and functioning. This will let you know if you are doing good job at installing your BMPs or if you need to improve. Lastly use this time to inspect all of your equipment and get them serviced if needed.

As you can see wet weather logging can be achieved as long as you use appropriate caution and plan ahead. Keep in mind though that there are times that it is just too wet to log and this time is better used planning for future logging jobs, fishing, or hunting. Planning is very important when it comes to conducting harvest operations and installing BMPs. If you have any questions or comments regarding BMPs please feel free to call me at (936) 639-8180.

* This article was published in the May 2004 issue of the Texas Logger

Thursday, April 1, 2004

BMP Trivia Question

Rolling dips provide cross drainage on in-sloped haul roads to channel excessive runoff and reduce erosion. What is the proper spacing for installing rolling dips on a road with a slope of 7% and on a road with a slope of 17%? (Hint) The spacing chart for rolling dips is listed in the BMP handbook.

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