Saturday, August 1, 2009

August BMP Q&A

By: Chris Duncan, BMP Forester (Ret.), Texas Forest Service

Q: A few months ago you mentioned that there was a new logger training workshop focusing on forest roads. I have attended both the stream crossing workshop as well as the traditional BMP workshop several years ago. I would like to attend the new workshop when time will allow. In the meantime are there any pointers you could give my company in regards to forest roads?

A: Glad to know that you have attended both the BMP and Stream Crossing workshops. I hope that the information you learned at the workshops has benefited you on your logging operations since then. We should be having another forest roads workshop in the near future. I would be glad to give you some helpful information in the meantime. Over the next few months I will talk about the planning, construction and maintenance of forest roads.
The planning process of any forestry activity is extremely important.  This stage allows you to layout your operations in the most productive, economical, and environmentally sensitive manner possible.  The time spent on planning road design and layout will prove to be invaluable to your business.  The following tools discussed below should be used when available, and are available for your use at little or no charge.

Aerial photographs can be extremely helpful in viewing the entire landscape before any work is done.  These tools can show you the location of existing roads, streams, structures, land uses, and even timber types.  It is important to remember that aerial photographs are a snapshot in time, and are only as good as the date they were taken.  This means that some features on a photo may change in the future, however roads and streams usually remain constant.  These photos are available at the Texas Forest Service, tax assessor’s office, and the Internet.

Topographical maps are also important to use during this process.  These maps show changes in elevation through a series of contour lines.  This can be helpful when laying out the road systems, estimating BMP costs, and avoiding wet areas and steep slopes. Blue line streams are also easily designated on these maps, taking some of the guesswork out of determining if stream crossings can be avoided.  You can obtain these maps from hunting stores, state and federal agencies, and the Internet.

Soil surveys are another tool that can provide a lot of information to contractors.  These books, published by the NRCS, classify the different soil types that are found in an area.  A general description of each soil type is included, along with many charts that contain more detailed information regarding flooding frequency, duration, equipment operability, and much more.  Knowing and understanding the soil type of the property that you are working on can be a tremendous help. For information about ordering or obtaining information about reference copies (CD-ROM or paper copy), contact: You can also get soil data from the Web Soil Survey website at:

Of course nothing beats actually visiting the site in person!  Use the above mentioned tools to get an idea of what you may encounter at the site, and use that information to help you plan your road layout.

For more information on forest road and other BMPs visit the Texas Forest Service webpage at, contact me at (903) 297-3910.

* This article was published in the August 2009 issue of the Texas Logger