Thursday, March 1, 2007

March BMP Q&A

By: Jake Donellan, BMP Forester (Ret.), Texas Forest Service

Q:   Prior to all the rains, I was operating in what I call flatwoods. Now, that same area I was cutting in back in November is too wet and portions are flooded. This got me to wondering if there are any special BMPs that I needed to follow in the flatwoods once I am able to get back in there to finish the harvest.

A:   Sorry the rain put a pinch on your harvest operation but I am glad you moved out of there when the rains came. The bluebook defines flatwoods as: forested areas with slopes of 1% or less that usually contain mixed pine and hardwoods. If this is the kind of area you were working in then the short answer to your question is; no, there are no special BMPs that need to be followed in a flatwoods.

Flatwoods are not necessarily jurisdictional wetlands and therefore the 15 mandatory road BMPs do not always apply. It is very difficult however, to determine when the criteria of jurisdictional wetlands has been met; if there are any questions about whether a tract contains a jurisdictional wetland, consult a hydrologist or qualified personnel from the local Natural Resource Conservation Service office.

For this example we will assume that these flatwoods are not jurisdictional and are indeed just your average, everyday flatwoods. In this case, we could expect that during the wet season, the soil is often saturated and may even have water at or near the soil surface. There may be the presences of mounds and intermounded soils which would create for a rough ride in a skidder or shear. Common trees found in this type setting would be mixed pines, sweetgum, willow oak, water oak, cherrybark oak, and mixed white oaks. Despite the presence of water, these areas do not require a streamside management zone (SMZ). The primary concern for an area like this would be rutting which could cause damage and changes to the natural hydrology.

Also in your situation, you mentioned some areas that remain flooded on the tract. These areas could be backwater basins which are areas that hold water from backwater flooding when adjacent water bodies overflow. Backwater basins do not require the protection of a SMZ. Be aware though that these basins can be difficult to distinguish from intermittent streams (which do require and SMZ) and intermittent ponds. In cases where backwater basins have well-defined banks, trees should be left or selectively thinned on the bank and inside the basin. Trees should not be cut within the basin if there is a possibility of disturbing the backwater basin’s natural flow by rutting or jeopardizing soil stability.

For more information regarding flatwoods, backwater basins, and BMPs consult the bluebook. If you prefer, you can contact me

* This article was published in the March 2007 issue of the Texas Logger