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:
- hydrophytic vegetation (plants that have the ability to grow, effectively compete, reproduce, and/or persist in anaerobic soil conditions)
- hydric soils (soils that are saturated, flooded, or ponded long enough during the growing season for anaerobic conditions to develop)
- 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 http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/water, contact me at (903) 297-3910.
* This article was published in the February 2010 issue of the Texas Logger