Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December BMP Q&A

By: Chuck Coup, BMP Forester (Ret.), Texas Forest Service

Q: I have heard that the Texas Forest Service has recently released a revised version of the Forestry Best Management Practices Handbook, is this true? If so, why was it revised and how can I get a copy?

A: You heard correctly, a new version of the Forestry Best Management Practices handbook was printed in August and is now available.

Texas Best Management Practices (BMPs) for protecting water quality during forestry operations are periodically updated to account for new research, technology, and operational methods. The Texas Forest Service has been working with the Texas Forestry Association’s BMP Task Force for over a year to evaluate and make revisions to the current forestry BMP guidelines. Members of the task force represent loggers, various state and federal agencies, academia, private industry, environmental organizations, and landowners across the region. Revisions to the guidelines were made in an effort to continue to improve and enhance the ability of forest landowners, loggers, and other forestry professionals to effectively protect water quality before, during, and after forestry operations.

Forestry BMPs were first developed in Texas in 1989, and have undergone four revisions since that time. The 1992 revision recommended that Streamside Management Zones (SMZs) be maintained on intermittent streams, and wetland BMPs were added to the handbook as part of the 1995 revision. In 2004, the guidelines were clarified, and information on stream classification and basal area calculations (a measure of forest density), two important factors in providing adequate SMZ protection to streams, was added.

The most recent update to the handbook, August 2010, further clarifies the guidelines, and includes improved BMP design schematics, and information on slope calculations and wetland protection. Federal regulations for mechanical site preparation for pine establishment in forested wetlands are included in the manual, along with indicators of established and ongoing forest operations, a critical component of complying with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The glossary was reformatted and several definitions were added or revised.

To make the new books distinguishable from past versions, the color was changed from dark blue to light blue. A summary of all revisions made to the BMP guidelines has been included at the beginning of the new BMP handbook. I would encourage you to take some time and review all the revisions and familiarize yourself with any of the changes.  It would be a good opportunity for you to re-visit the handbook if you have not thumbed through it in a while.

To obtain a free copy of the new BMP handbook, please visit the Texas Forest Service website at or contact the Texas Forest Service BMP project office in Lufkin (936) 639-8180 or Longview (903) 297-3910. If you have any questions about BMPs or any of the revisions made to the BMP handbook please contact Chuck Coup at the TFS office in Lufkin.

* This article was published in the December 2010 issue of the Texas Logger

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Texas Water Source - November 2010

November Issue of the Texas Water Source Now Available

November BMP Q&A

By: Chuck Coup, BMP Forester (Ret.), Texas Forest Service

Q:   The Blue Book mentions rutting on roads but not so much about rutting in the harvest area. Are there BMP guidelines for rutting that apply across the harvest area as well? What are the concerns for rutting in the harvest area and how would you evaluate a site if you were conducting a voluntary site evaluation?

A:   Great question, and one that could really use some clarification, especially as we move into the wet season!

Rutting is one of those situations where everybody loses. A skidder slogging through the mud certainly does not increase the efficiency of a logger’s operation, and landowners know that extensive rutting can lead to erosion and soil compaction, which can have a substantial impact on future tree growth. Rutting can also lead to environmental and water quality issues, especially if it occurs on steep slopes. 

Rutting generally results from the tires of vehicles such as skidders, log trucks, pickups, ATVs, etc., operating under wet conditions. Most of the rutting occurring in the harvest area (i.e., off the established roads) will be caused by skidder traffic and to a lesser degree the shear. The BMP guidelines do not specifically mention the shear, but it would be considered part of the skidding operation since it travels over essentially the same area.

So, are there guidelines that cover rutting in the harvest area? I think that question can be answered by mentioning one point; skidding operations occur on skid trails. Skid trails are defined as a route over which logs are moved to a landing or road. So if a skidder passes over an area, any rutting that it causes would be considered occurring on a skid trail, and therefore be addressed by BMPs for skid trails. Make sense?

Rutting on skid trails is covered under the recommended specifications for skid trails in Part II of the Blue Book. The guidelines recommend that when soils are saturated, skidding should be restricted to prevent excessive soil compaction and channelized erosion. The general rule of thumb for determining excessive rutting is no deeper than six inches for no more than 50 feet (or about two skidder lengths). That comes from number 18 under the recommended specifications for haul roads in your BMP Blue Book.  Certainly there are things you can do to minimize rutting during your operation.  Using high flotation tires, keeping skidder loads light, or shovel logging extremely wet sites are all possible options.

But, don’t get the impression that when we do a site evaluation we come with ruler and tape measure in hand ready to measure every rut we see. Remember that BMP guidelines are for reducing impacts to water quality. When determining if rutting is too extensive, there are several factors to consider. Look to see if the ruts will change the direction of water flow, or cause it to puddle the next time it rains. Soil type and slope are both very important factors to consider. Look to see if the ruts will in some way channel rainwater so that it may deliver sediment to a stream. If you notice these things happening, then it may be time to head to drier ground. Our evaluations take the entire site into consideration, so if it is obvious to us that you pulled off when you noticed rutting started to occur, our evaluation will certainly reflect that.

For more information on BMPs visit the Texas Forest Service webpage at, contact me at (936) 639-8180.

* This article was published in the November 2010 issue of the Texas Logger

Friday, October 1, 2010

BMP Trivia Question

Streams are classified into 3 categories; perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral. Knowing the difference between these three categories can mean the difference in leaving an SMZ or not. Which of the following characteristics are fairly unique to intermittent streams?

A. Soils with gray colors down to a depth of 24 inches with a loamy to clay texture.
B. A channel that is almost always sinuous.
C. Evidence of leaf litter and/or small debris jams in the flow area.
D. Water pools absent during dry conditions but present during wet conditions. E. Considered “waters of the United States."

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September BMP Q&A

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

Q:   I ‘m getting ready to move onto a fairly large tract for a timber harvest.  This particular tract doesn’t have much in the way of an established road system, so I will be constructing most of the roads for the harvest.  The landowner wants me to make part of the road system a permanent road which he will be able to use for access to his tract in the future.  I anticipate that I will need to have at least 1 and maybe 2 material borrow sites to complete this permanent road as the landowner has requested.  What I would like to know if there any guidelines for road material sites that pertain to best management practices?

A:   This is a very good question.  We have written several articles in the past about road BMPs, but have not mentioned a whole lot about what should be done if there is a need to “borrow” materials from the site.  Deposits of surfacing, fill, and site stabilization materials located on the tract are an extremely important resource for forest management activities.  Excavation of these deposits represents a potential for nonpoint source pollution.  Proper planning, layout, maintenance, and reclamation are critical to ensure maximum utilization of materials while minimizing soil movement and impacts to water quality.

Carefully assess the tracts natural drainage patterns, soil types, slopes, and any adjacent streamside management zones (SMZ) to determine the best location, size, and shape of the needed material site.  Deposits covering large areas should be divided and worked in stages, maintaining a minimum size working area and accomplishing partial or complete reclamation of the disturbed area before moving on.  Avoid leaving large areas disturbed for extended periods, active or not.  Road material sites should not be located within an SMZ.  They should be located a minimum of 50 feet from the SMZ edge, but if they must be closer than 50 feet make sure to plan for control measures that will protect water quality.

While material sites are active; use settling basins, waterbars and/or terraces to slow runoff and disperse surface flow.  When extended periods of inactivity are expected, use temporary erosion control measures such as silt fences or straw bales to control surface runoff.  When possible, do site work during dry weather to eliminate excessive runoff and accelerated erosion of freshly disturbed areas.

Upon completion of pit operations and depletion of the deposit; redeposit and shape the overburden in a uniform layer over the pit area.  Make sure the pit has adequate drainage to prevent soil movement and stream sedimentation.  Finally, reclaim the site to aid the future use of the area and implement control measures to minimize surface runoff for each case.  Consider the area's slope, soil erosiveness, and capability to naturally revegetate and then fertilize and reseed all disturbed areas as needed.

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

* This article was published in the September 2010 issue of the Texas Logger

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Texas Water Source - August 2010

August Issue of the Texas Water Source Now Available

August BMP Q&A

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

Q:   I have a tract of timber which was clearcut last fall.  The logger who harvested the tract did a bang up job on installing necessary BMPs where they were needed.  My consulting forester has recommended that I conduct a site preparation burn later this summer to prepare the site for planting.  The tract has a stream on it that usually runs for about 3 months in a typical year.  Are there any special BMPs in regards to prescribed burning that should be implemented to ensure the water quality of the stream is not adversely affected?

A:   Glad to hear that you were happy with the job your logger did in implementing BMPs where they were needed.  Prescribed burning can be a beneficial management tool when used properly with trained personnel. Site preparation burns are often the hottest type burn and can remove a substantial amount of the surface organic material. This type of burn would have the greatest potential for increased surface runoff or soil erosion, particularly on steeper slopes.  Use the following guidelines to help reduce the risks to water quality and soil erosion on your tract.

Site preparation burning creates the potential for soil movement.  A significant amount of soil movement can be caused by the preparation for the burns, i.e., firebreaks. Firebreaks should have water control structures that divert runoff away from water bodies in order to minimize erosion.  Site prep burns on steep slopes or highly erodible soils should only be conducted when they are absolutely necessary and should be as "cold" as possible.  Stabilize and revegetate firelines, if needed, on grades in excess of 5% or areas subject to accelerated erosion or known sensitive areas.

Firelines should be constructed on the perimeter of the burn area and along the boundary of the Streamside Management Zone (SMZ). The purpose of protecting the SMZ from fire is to safeguard the filtering effects of the litter and organic matter.  All efforts should be made to minimize the impact from site-prep burning within an SMZ.  Firelines should follow the guidelines established for logging trails and skid trails with respect to waterbars and wing ditches, and should be only as wide and as deep as needed to permit safe site preparation burns.  Firelines which may cross a drainage should be turned parallel to the stream or have a wing ditch or other structure allowing runoff in the line to be dispersed rather than channeled directly into the stream.

Finally, make plans to maintain your firelanes after the burn has been completed.  Firelanes on highly erodible sites or other problem areas should be inspected periodically to correct erosion problems by installing dips, wing ditches, waterbars, etc. and/or by seeding.  Mowing, rather than blading, should be used to maintain firelanes in order to avoid exposing mineral soil to potential erosion.

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

* This article was published in the August 2010 issue of the Texas Logger

Thursday, July 1, 2010

BMP Trivia Question

If you had an in-sloped haul road with a 14% grade that needs some sort of cross drainage to channel excessive runoff and reduce erosion, what would likely be the best BMP to implement?

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June BMP Q&A

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

Q:   I have recently purchased a tract of land for timber investment which was clear-cut by the previous owner last February.  My forester suggested we mechanically “site prep” the land to get ready for planting early next year.  Are there any precautions we should take in relation to forestry best management practices?

A:   The major problems associated with site preparation involve soil erosion and potential sedimentation from runoff.  The primary factors contributing to erosion from runoff are percent of area with exposed soil, degree of slope, and soil type.  Remember the following points in order to protect your stream and roads during the site prep operation:

In General:
Conduct earth moving activities along the contour of the land
  • The boundaries of all streamside management zones (SMZs) should be clearly defined before beginning site prep activities.
  • Plan ahead to minimize disturbance from equipment within the SMZ.
  • Avoid intensive preparation on steep slopes and on this or highly erodible soils.
  • Ripping, shearing, windrowing, and mechanical planting should follow the contour of the land.
  • Provide water outlets on bedded or furrowed areas at locations that will minimize soil movement. Discharge water onto a vegetated surface.
  • All reasonable attempts should be made to stabilize and repair erosion resulting from site preparation operations.
  • All reasonable attempts should be made to avoid damaging existing water control devices such as culverts, waterbars, and wing ditches. Damage to any existing water control structures should be repaired immediately.

If you are planning chemical preparation:
  • Always read and follow all guidelines on the manufacturer’s label before applying silvicultural chemicals.
  • Carefully plan the application to avoid direct and indirect entry of chemicals into streams and impoundments.
  • Avoid applying chemicals to vegetation protecting eroded slopes, gullies, drainages, and other fragile areas subject to erosion.
  • Use a spray device capable of immediate shutoff.
  • Should a spill occur, shovel a dike around the spill.  Use an absorbent material to soak up the spill.  Keep all spill fluids from flowing into streams or other water bodies.  Some spills will require notifying appropriate authorities.
  • Before disposal, containers should be rinsed three times and rinsate should be applied in spray form to the treatment area. All containers should be disposed of in accordance with Manufacturer’s recommendations.
If you have any questions about site preparation BMPs or BMP’s in general please feel free to call me at (903) 297-3910 or email me at

* This article was published in the June 2010 issue of the Texas Logger

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Texas Water Source - May 2010

May Issue of the Texas Water Source Now Available


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

Q:   The Texas Forest Service over the last several years has released several reports documenting how well BMP’s are being used on forestry operations here in East Texas.  I would like to know if the Texas Forest Service will be conducting any more of these surveys in the future and are the past reports available anywhere.

A:   Since 1991 the Texas Forest Service has conducted six rounds of BMP implementation monitoring.  During each round a minimum of 150 randomly chosen tracts are inspected for the implementation of BMP’s with the cooperation of the landowner.  Once all the tracts have been inspected the data that was collected is used to produce a report which shows how well BMP’s are being used. 

In December 2008 the Texas Forest Service released its seventh BMP implementation report.  The overall implementation rate for the sites selected in round seven was 91.5%.  Family forest owners had an implementation rate of 88.7%, forest industry had an implementation rate of 91.1%, public lands (national and state forestlands) had an implementation rate of 100%, and corporate (our newest category of landowners) had an implementation rate of 95.7%. 

During round seven improvements were seen in several areas such as a decrease in the number of significant risks to water quality, higher BMP implementation on avoiding or minimizing the number of temporary stream crossings, and higher overall BMP implementation on site preparation and wetlands.  Although improvements were seen there were also major deficiencies seen. These deficiencies were failure to restore and stabilize stream crossings on temporary roads and leaving inadequate SMZ widths along intermittent and perennial streams. 

Starting in May 2010 the Texas Forest Service will begin its eighth round of BMP implementation monitoring.  Over the next 12-14 months, the Texas Forest Service will randomly select a minimum of 150 tracts and with the cooperation of the landowner evaluate them for the implementation of BMP’s.  In 2011 the eighth report will be released showing the overall findings of these inspections.  Hopefully we will continue to see an increase in the implementation rates and see a decrease in the number of deficiencies.

All previous reports can be found on the Texas Forest Service website at  You can look at each report and see how far we have come over the years in the implementation of BMP’s but also see the areas in which we still need to improve.  If you have any questions about the BMP implementation reports or BMP’s in general please feel free to call me at (903) 297-3910.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

BMP Trivia Question

Can you match the definitions with the correct terms?

1. A cross drainage diversion ditch and/or hump in a trail or road for the purpose of diverting surface water runoff into roadside vegetation, duff, ditch or dispersion area to minimize the volume and velocity which can cause soil movement and erosion. ____

2. In forest areas, that portion of precipitation that flows from a drainage area on the land surface or in open channels. ____

3. A drainage depression or ditch built across the top of a slope to divert surface water from that slope. ____

A. Water Body
B. Runoff
C. Waterbar
D. Diversion Ditch
E. Rolling Dip

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Monday, March 1, 2010

The Texas Water Source - March 2010

March Issue of the Texas Water Source Now Available

March BMP Q&A

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

Q:  In last month’s article I was asked if there was any truth to the fact that there are sometimes mandatory BMPs which must be followed.

A:  The short answer to this question is that there are no mandatory BMPs you are required to follow, unless you are operating in jurisdictional wetlands. As mandated by Amendments to the Clean Water Act, forest roads in jurisdictional wetlands including “waters of the United States” must be constructed and maintained in accordance with the following Best Management Practices to retain Section 404 permit exemption status:

  1. Permanent roads, temporary access roads, and skid trails in waters of the U.S. should be held to the minimum feasible number, width, and total length consistent with the purpose of specific silvicultural operations and local topographic and climatic conditions.
  2. All roads, temporary or permanent, should be located sufficiently far from streams or other water bodies (except portions of such roads that must cross water bodies) to minimize discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S.
  3. The road fill should be bridged, culverted or otherwise designed to prevent the restriction of expected flood flows.
  4. The fill should be properly stabilized and maintained to prevent erosion during and following construction.
  5. Discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. to construct a road fill should be made in a manner that minimizes the encroachment of trucks, tractors, bulldozers, or other heavy equipment within waters of the U.S. (including adjacent wetlands) that lie outside the lateral boundaries of the fill itself.
  6. In designing, constructing, and maintaining roads, vegetative disturbance in the waters of the U.S. should be kept to a minimum.
  7. The design, construction, and maintenance of the road crossing should not disrupt the migration or other movement of those species of aquatic life inhabiting the water body.
  8. Borrow material should be taken from upland sources whenever feasible.
  9. The discharge should not take, or jeopardize the continued existence of, a threatened or endangered species as defined under the Endangered Species Act, or adversely modify or destroy the critical habitat of such species.
  10. Discharges into breeding and nesting areas for migratory waterfowl, spawning areas, and wetlands should be avoided if practical alternatives exist.
  11. The discharge should not be located in the proximity of a public water supply intake.
  12. The discharge should not occur in areas of concentrated shellfish population.
  13. The discharge should not occur in a component of the National Wild and Scenic River System.
  14. The discharge of material should consist of suitable material free from toxic pollutants in toxic amounts.
  15. All temporary fills should be removed in their entirety and the area restored to its original elevation.

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

* This article was published in the March 2010 issue of the Texas Logger

Monday, February 1, 2010

February BMP Q&A

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

Q:  Prior to the rains, I had started installing the roads for an operation on a fairly “wet” tract. Now the tract is much too wet or flooded to push roads in.  I would consider this particular tract to be a bottomland hardwood system. I was told by a buddy that there may actually be mandatory BMPs that I need to follow when installing the road system on this tract.  Is this true?

A:  I’m sorry the rains put your operations on hold, but I am glad to hear that you decided to move off the tract when the rains came.  The bluebook defines bottomland systems as: areas which may or may not be jurisdictional wetlands; include a major water course (either a perennial or intermittent stream) and associated floodplains, tributary water courses, sloughs, and ephemeral drains. The predominant timber type is hardwood, but usually includes some pine.  If this sounds like the area you were working in than the short answer is that there are no mandatory BMPs you are required to follow.

The tricky part is determining whether or not the tract you were working on contains jurisdictional wetlands.  The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (Federal Register, 1982) and the Environmental Protection Agency (Federal Register, 1980) jointly define wetlands as:
“Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency or duration sufficient to support and, under normal circumstances, do support a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.  Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.”

The three criteria used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in delineating wetlands are:
Buttonbush is an easy-to-recognize bush that grows in water or moist soil

  1. hydrophytic vegetation (plants that have the ability to grow, effectively compete, reproduce, and/or persist in anaerobic soil conditions)
  1. hydric soils (soils that are saturated, flooded, or ponded long enough during the growing season for anaerobic conditions to develop)
  1. wetland hydrology (inundation by water sufficient to support hydrophytic vegetation and develop hydric soils).

All three must be present under normal circumstances for an area to be identified as a jurisdictional wetland.  It can be very difficult to determine when the criteria of jurisdictional wetlands have 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.  If the tract does contain jurisdictional wetlands, there are 15 federally mandated BMPs which must be followed.

In next month’s article I will go over the 15 mandatory road BMPs.  I encourage you to attend one of our upcoming BMP Forest Roads Logger Training Workshops for more information.

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

* This article was published in the February 2010 issue of the Texas Logger

Friday, January 1, 2010

BMP Trivia Question

Wing ditches collect and direct road surface runoff from one or both sides of the road away from the roadway and into undisturbed areas. Generally, wing ditches should be located no more than ___ feet apart on sites where grades are between 2% and 5%. (Hint: refer to the BMP handbook for wing ditch spacing guidelines)

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The Texas Water Source - January 2010

January Issue of the Texas Water Source Now Available