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 http://txforestservice.tamu.edu/water.
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.
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