By: Shane Harrington, BMP Forester (Ret.), Texas Forest Service
Q: I live in Southeast Texas and much of my timberland was damaged by Hurricane Rita last fall. My streamside management zones were damaged as well and I am trying to restore these areas in order to continue protecting water quality. Would it be better to allow these areas to naturally heal themselves or should I take action in restoring these areas myself?
A: That is a really good question. I am sure that a lot of people in your area have the same question. Streamside management zones (SMZs) are important in protecting water quality and providing excellent wildlife habitat. The purpose of an SMZ is to reduce the potential quantity of sediment and logging debris reaching the stream and to prevent increased water temperatures. Caution should be taken when conducting any forest management activity within the area immediately adjacent to stream channels to ensure the protection of both instream and downstream water quality. Under proper management, timber production, wildlife enhancement and water quality may all be achieved.
An initial assessment should be made of any damaged SMZ to determine the severity, current stocking level, and ability to regenerate. The best option for restoring the SMZ may be to allow it to naturally regenerate if there are adequate sources for regeneration of desirable species. Damage to the SMZ may be severe enough that natural regeneration is not an option and the area must be artificially regenerated. Preferred species for planting are Water Oak, Willow Oak, Cherrybark Oak, Swamp Chestnut Oak, Nutall Oak, Green Ash, Sweetgum, Cottonwood, and Loblolly Pine. These seedlings should be hand planted. Intensive site preparation and machine planting should be avoided in these areas in order to minimize the potential for sediment and debris from entering the stream.
The SMZ should encompass 50 feet on both sides of all perennial and intermittent streams and carry a minimum basal area of 50 square feet per acre. When replanting, every effort should be made to ensure that the number of seedlings planted will meet the minimum basal area of 50 square feet in ten years.
Herbaceous weed control may be needed to control competing vegetation and to increase seedling survival. The application of herbicides within the SMZ should be done through spot treatment or individual stem injection. Aerial or ground broadcast of herbicides should be avoided within the SMZ to prevent any chemicals form entering the stream. If the area where the herbicides are to be applied is prone to flooding extra caution should be taken when applying the treatment or the treatment should be avoided. Always follow all manufacturing labels on containers when applying herbicides and always dispose of empty bottles and trash appropriately.
Whether the SMZ is naturally or artificially regenerated, Texas Best Management Practices (BMPs) Guidelines should be followed. These guidelines are designed to protect water quality during any forest management activity. For a copy of the BMP handbook visit your local Texas Forest Service office or view online at http://txforestservice.tamu.edu/water. For questions regarding repairing damaged SMZs or BMPs in general please contact me by calling (936) 639-8180.
* This article was published in the September 2006 issue of the Texas Logger