Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 2012 BMP Q&A

By: Todd Thomas, Water Resources Forester, Texas A&M Forest Service

Q: Awhile back I noticed on some closed out skid trails that had been revegetated, not only was rye grass used, but they had also used some clover in the mix.  Is there any benefit to planting clover when in areas that you are revegetating?

Revegetated Logging Road, East Texas
A: I am always glad to hear about revegetation, as it is an excellent method of preventing erosion on roads and other disturbed areas.  It is even better to hear of the clover being used in the mix.  This is because clover is a type of plant that is also known as a “legume”.  Legumes can be important in areas where there has been a considerable amount of soil disturbance such as a skid trail or approach to a stream crossing. 

Legumes perform what is called nitrogen fixation.  In other words, they take nitrogen from the air and put it back into the soil.  Nitrogen is an extremely important nutrient for plant growth.  This is why sometimes in agricultural operations you will see peanuts or soybeans used in crop rotation, since they can contribute nitrogen back to the soil that was depleted by the previous crop.  In an area with a great deal of disturbance it is important to incorporate something in your revegetation that can contribute back to the soil not only by helping to hold it in place, but by delivering a much needed nutrient that will help other grasses to grow, further preventing erosion. 

Subterranean clover
On page 66 of the blue book, it says that “legumes should be used in mixes with grasses.”  On the next page it gives some options for different legumes to use.  The legumes that we recommend incorporating are Singletary peas, Hairy vetch, Arrowleaf clover, and Subterranean clover.  However, if you choose to incorporate another legume, that is great also.  In general, all clovers, as well as plants that have some sort of seed pod (such as peas or beans) are legumes. 

A side benefit of planting legumes is that they are a great food source for wildlife.  Most legumes are high in protein, and all our deer hunters out there know that additional protein can increase antler growth in whitetail deer.  I’m sure the landowner will be extra happy knowing that you have helped their quest for “Muy Grande”.  This is just a side benefit while you are doing an excellent job at rebuilding soil productivity and reducing erosion. 

So remember to always include legumes in your revegetation and to keep the questions coming.  You can email me your questions at or by phone at (936)639-8180.  Also, be sure to pay a visit to our blog at  On the blog you can find old Q&A articles, as well as additional information on how to best keep our waters clean while providing the world with forest products.  

*This article was published in the December 2012 issue of the Texas Logger

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 2012 BMP Q&A

By: Todd Thomas, Water Resources Forester, Texas A&M Forest Service

Q: Just the other day, the topic of temporary stream crossings came up.  More specifically, how does TFS recommend that we cross streams and how should they be left after operations are complete on the site? 

A:  Excellent question, if you don’t give proper care and thought to your temporary stream crossings, many of the BMPs you have put into place on the tract can be negated.  A key component of any forest management activity is access.  In some cases you may not have to cross streams to access parts of a tract that you need to.  For instance, there may be another entrance or road that has been overlooked, a neighboring landowner may grant access through their property, or it may not be necessary at all once you have stepped back and looked at the bigger picture. 

More often than not, you are going to have to put in a stream crossing or two to get the job done, but remember to keep them to a minimum.  When selecting a location be sure and look for a straight, narrow section of stream with relatively low banks.  This will minimize the amount of disturbance to the stream and stream banks.  Higher banks result in a greater amount of disturbance than lower banks, and straight, narrow sections limit the amount of exposure the streambed receives from equipment.  Once you have selected the appropriate location, be sure that your approaches to the stream as well as the crossing itself is at a 90 degree angle to the stream, this ensures that as equipment crosses, the amount of the stream exposed to equipment is greatly reduced. 

Log skidder dragging logs across a temporary bridgemat
If the banks of the stream are too high for equipment to cross directly, a common approach is to lay slash bundles into the stream bed that can be driven across.  The only downside to this is that they must be removed following operations; this can take some effort and can result in a serious amount of disturbance.  However, this is a much better option than dirt crossings.  Dirt crossings should never be used and are never recommended.  Remember, the point of BMPs is to keep extra dirt from entering the streams, not to add any more.  One of the easiest alternatives for these types of crossings is to use bridgemats, otherwise known as skidder mats or dragline mats.  These mats are constructed of hardwood cants that have been bolted together and are extremely durable and can be used over and over again.  They can be laid in place with the grapples of the skidder and removed in the same fashion once you are done.  The best part is that you have stayed out of the stream bed completely and maximized water quality protection at your temporary stream crossing. 

Once it is time to move off site, temporary stream crossings should be removed and the approaches should be stabilized to reduce erosion.  One way to stabilize approaches is by revegetating them.  On page 65 of the most recent BMP handbook there are guidelines for revegetating disturbed areas, there is even a chart that gives you different seeding options so that you can use the best seed for your site.  Another alternative is to distribute fine slash down the approach (being sure not to put any in the stream bed) and drive over it to ensure firm placement, followed by larger, more coarse slash. 

In conclusion, remember to keep stream crossings to a minimum, always stabilize your approaches and to never use dirt crossings.   Keep the questions coming so we can shed some light on any best management practice confusion that might be out there, you can send your questions to me at or just phone it in by calling (936) 639-8180.

*This article was published in the November 2012 issue of the Texas Logger

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Polk County Landowner Meeting

On Saturday, October 27, Texas A&M Forest Service personnel helped to put on a meeting in Livingston, Texas for landowners in Polk County.  The meeting was sponsored by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Texas Forestry Association.  60 landowners showed up to increase their knowledge of sound forest management and issues surrounding modern forestry.

The topics and speakers included
  • The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
    • Steve Mayo, MeadWestvaco
  • East Texas Land Sales and Acquisitions
    • Wes Kilpatrick, Walsh Land Brokers
  • Legislative Update
    • Ron Hufford, Texas Forestry Association
  • Woodville Renewable Power Project
    • Ryan Thomas, East Texas Electric Cooperative, Inc. 
  • Multiple Use Forestry
    • Gary Burns, Burns Forestry
  • Lonleaf Pine: Past, Present, and Future
    • Jared Goodman, Texas A&M Forest Service
  • BMPs: What You Should Know as a Forest Landowner
    • Todd Thomas, Texas A&M Forest Service
Not only was it a good learning experience for forest landowners, it was an opportunity for many of them to become acquainted with one another as well as for the Polk County Landowner Association to boost their membership.  Landowner associations play in an integral role in landowner education, ensuring that the members are aware of current issues and sound forest management.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

SFASU Students Learn About BMPs

This past week, Regional Forest Health Coordinator Joe Pase and Water Resources Forester Todd Thomas, taught a lab in northwest Nacogdoches County for the forest ecology class from Stephen F. Austin State University.  The class was composed of 33 students who were either forestry or environmental science majors.  The students got to learn about the Texas A&M Forest Service's Best Management Practices (BMP)  program, view BMPs that had been implemented on the ground, benthic macroinvertebrates, and how BMP effectiveness monitoring is conducted.  Some of the BMPs that the students got to see first hand included, streamside management zones (SMZs), remediated and revegetated stream crossings, water bars, wing ditches, and rolling dips.  The Texas A&M Forest Service has been helping with these labs every fall and spring semester since 1994 and has reached more than 1,000 SFASU students over the years.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

Utilization of logging residue or slash

Not this Slash.  

Today I would like to take some time to focus on logging residue, also known as “slash”.    All too often when someone passes by a timber harvest, they see the slash scattered about the area and think to themselves, “Look at all that wasted wood”.  There is no need for concern here, for that wood has not been wasted at all.  When it comes to reducing overland flow and the erosion that occurs as a result, slash does an excellent job.  Due to the nature of the operation, slash is in abundance, so why not utilize a material that is already on site and in bulk?  In addition to reducing erosion, slash contributes nutrients to the soil.  As it decomposes, the nutrients in the slash are returned to the soil.  So not only are the nutrients that are already there retained instead of washing away, more nutrients are deposited!

It is especially important for slash to be distributed in highly sensitive areas, or areas that are the most erosion prone.  Woods roads or skid trails that are going to be closed following the operation should have slash distributed down them in such a manner to keep them from washing out.  This entails putting down the finer slash first and running over it with a skidder to get it down into the soil, followed by larger slash.  The amount of slash put out depends on how much potential there is for erosion, however, it’s pretty hard to overdo it. 

Skid trail stabilized with slash
Skid trail in a clearcut stabilized with slash
Another sensitive area that can benefit from distributing slash on it is the approaches for stream crossings.  The slash should be put down just as you would when closing down a woods road to hold the soil in place and keep it from entering the stream.  It is important to take note that the slash is put down on the approaches to the crossing, but not down in the stream bed itself.  If excessive slash is left in the stream bed, then those excess nutrients will end up in the stream as the slash decomposes, posing water quality risks.  Even worse, slash in the stream bed will eventually dam up the stream creating issues both up and downstream.  A common approach to crossing streams where low water crossings are not practical is to use a bundle of slash in the stream so that equipment can drive over it.  These crossings should be removed immediately as soon as operations are complete to prevent negative impacts to water quality. 

Stream Crossing approaches stabilized with slash

Other sensitive areas such as steep slopes or areas with highly erodible soils can benefit from slash distribution as well.  The slash will keep these areas from eroding until vegetation can re-establish itself and continue to keep the soil intact.  In most cases the slash has more or less decomposed at this point, and vegetation has taken over and erosion is still kept to a minimum.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Texas NRCS Personnel Attend Forestry BMP Training

On Tuesday, September 25 in Jefferson, Texas and on Thursday, September 20 in Lufkin, Texas NRCS personnel attended training put on by TFS water resources staff to become more familiar with Texas Forestry Best Management Practices.  This was an opportunity for some to become newly acquainted with forestry BMPs and for others to be refreshed.  All aspects of the BMP program were covered in the morning session of the class to ensure that all those attending had been exposed to forestry BMPs as well as to facilitate discussion on some issues they might face in their jobs. 

After lunch, the classes visited recently harvested tracts to view these best management practices first hand.  At the field sites, the students were able to identify different stream types, view and discuss streamside management zones (SMZs), look at various stream crossing methods, view and discuss water control structures and other aspects of timber harvesting, and how BMPs are implemented in these activities.  The ultimate goal of these classes was for NRCS personnel to leave with a greater understanding of forestry BMPs to aid landowners in protecting soil and water resources.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September 2012 BMP Q&A

By: Todd Thomas, Water Resources Forester, Texas A&M Forest Service

Q: Sometimes in order to speed things up, our skidder operator will delimb logs using what is called “backing".  This is where he takes the logs with the skidder grapple and backs them into standing timber, knocking off the limbs before they get to the landing.  Recently I was told that this was not a good practice and that we should not do this anymore.  Are there any BMPs related to this, and why should we not do it?

A: Excellent question, and one that certainly needs to be addressed.  While there are no BMPs that specifically mention “backing", it is something that should not be practiced, especially if it is done in an area where the trees will not be completely harvested, as is the case of a Streamside Management Zone (SMZ).  Backing whole trees in for delimbing can cause excessive damage to the residual stand, making them more susceptible to insects and disease and possibly resulting in mortality.  This completely defeats the purpose of leaving them standing, and if in an SMZ, may not provide the same level of water resource protection. 

In addition to damaging trees, the nature of this process involves equipment intrusion into the SMZ.  If you recall, Texas Forestry BMPs call for equipment traffic to be kept to a minimum within the SMZ, as well as for the “forest floor to be essentially undisturbed".  By backing logs in, these BMP guidelines have not been followed.

Another way in which backing damages SMZ is the potential to create ruts at the edge of the SMZ.  Even if these ruts are small, they can become a direct channel to carry runoff water to the stream and increase erosion.  You can also push back too far, damaging the stream bank itself, and causing it to fail.  While you may have strived to follow BMPs across the entire tract, this simple process can negate the other BMPs by delivering soil directly to the stream. 

Texas Forestry BMPs call for streams to be “clear or debris, such as tops and limbs”.  While you may be pushing the limbs back at the edge of the SMZ, you run the risk of pushing them into the stream.  Even though tops and limbs can fall into the stream bed naturally from storms and dead trees, there is no need to increase this debris from a practice that is not necessary.  As these tips and limbs decompose, they release nutrients that can reduce water quality.  When stream flow increases during rainy weather, limbs and tops are pushed downstream and can dam up the stream, increasing the potential for flooding.  As the limbs are pushed down even further, they can gouge the stream banks, increasing the erosion that occurs naturally within the stream, as well as increasing the amount of soil in the water.

In conclusion, even though skidder operators are well intentioned and are just trying to help out the guys up at the landing, this is a practice that needs to go by the wayside.  It is not worth the damage that can be incurred to the SMZ or the stream, and I wonder about its’ efficiency to the overall operation.  Keep the questions coming so we can shed some light on any best management practice confusion that might be out there, you can send your questions to me at or just phone it in by calling (936) 639-8180.

*This article was published in the September 2012 issue of the Texas Logger

Friday, August 31, 2012

The basics of waterbars and wing ditches

The primary pollutant that enters our waterways from forestry operations is sediment.  This sediment comes mostly from roads, skid trails, and firebreaks.  Sediment is carried from overland flow that has gained enough velocity to detach soil particles and carry them with it; this overland flow, if not slowed down and dispersed, ends up in the stream, sediment and all.  One method of slowing down overland flow, as well as dispersing any sediment that it is carrying with it is to construct waterbars in trails, roads, and firebreaks.

Waterbars should be constructed at a 30-45 degree angle, turning overland flow out and away from the road.  

Accompanying a waterbar should be some sort of a turnout, more commonly referred to as a "wing ditch."  As the overland flow is intercepted by the waterbar, it is diverted into the wing ditch and dispersed before it has the opportunity to gain speed and cause further erosion.  It is also important to note that wing ditches should be constructed to be more flat than v-shaped.  This encourages diverted flow to dissipate rather than be concentrated.  

When constructing waterbars it is important to be sure that both ends are tied in to the edge of the road.  This prevents "blow outs" or water from going around the waterbar.  

Waterbars should never be constructed perpendicular to the road, this forms a dam, causing water to stand in the road.  Even though any overland flow has been put to a stop, the integrity of the road has been compromised, due to the 90 degree waterbar with no turnout accompanying it.  

Waterbars and wing ditches should never discharge into streams.  This increases stream bank erosion as well as increases the amount of sediment that enters the stream as a result of operations.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wealth of Information at Your Fingertips!

Forest landowners who want some information on various aspects of timberland ownership can go to the Texas Forest Service website.  For a concise collection of links to all kinds of information, go to the Water Resources web page - -  and click on "Publications."  Scroll down until you find Forest Landowner Briefings.  The first edition covers a wide variety of topics pertinent to forest landowners.  Links are included so the viewer can delve more deeply into each topic.  The second edition, which was just published (August 2012), looks a little farther into more specific topics, including wildfire recovery, wildlife management, endangered species, forest taxes, and non-traditional income on forestlands.

These two newsletters were originally intended to be a resource for landowners with forested property in East Texas but living out of state.  However, any forest landowner can benefit from the information provided, especially new landowners who aren't sure where to start and what is available to them.  Take a look!

Photo by Ronald F. Billings, Texas Forest Service

Friday, August 17, 2012

Crushed Concrete on the Jones State Forest

While more expensive than seeding, armoring a road surface with rock is an excellent way to prevent erosion and improve access, especially on roads that remain wet for long periods of time, experience heavy traffic, or are prone to erosion.  A popular rock to use is crushed concrete.  When structures such as roads and buildings that are made of concrete are demolished, it has become common practice to take this concrete and crush it for reuse.  After the concrete has been crushed, magnets remove any steel such as rebar that may be present.  The final product is a hard, granular aggregate that is composed of sand, gravel, and crushed stone. 
Crushed concrete is often cheaper than using natural rock aggregate since it is a byproduct of demolition.  Crushed concrete stabilizes relatively quickly once it is applied to the road creating a firm road surface.  Just as with using other rock material for roads, crushed concrete drains faster than if the road was left with its natural dirt surface, reducing the potential for rutting in the road. 
This week, 118 tons of crushed concrete was spread out on a section of road in the Jones State Forest in Conroe, Texas by TFS Resource Specialists Mike Adams and Ray Uballe.  The section of road where the crushed concrete was distributed is just one stop on the best management practices (BMP) tour down on the Jones.  The tour consists of various BMPs that have been put into application so visitors can not only learn about these BMPs, they can also see them in use. 

 Resource Specialist Ray Uballe spreads the crushed concrete following the delivery of the material

Resource Specialist Mike Adams smoothes the newly applied crushed concrete



Monday, August 6, 2012

August 2012 BMP Q&A

By: Todd Thomas, BMP Forester, Texas Forest Service

Q: While discussing streamside management zones (SMZs) with a co-worker, the topic of thinning came up.  I told him that the guidelines recommend leaving at least 50 ft2 of basal area per acre.   He insisted that it was 50% crown cover.  Who is right?   Is there really a difference?

 A: Great question.  SMZs provide many critical functions in protecting water quality, so it is important that we don’t limit their effectiveness through over harvesting.  Not only do these areas slow and filter runoff, they also provide shade to streams, maintain bank stability, and lessen the impacts from raindrops that can lead to erosion. 

Now back to your question.  In essence, there is some truth to both answers, though in the event you have a friendly wager riding on this, I would have to side with you.  According to the Texas Forestry Best Management Practices Handbook, within the SMZ of perennial and intermittent streams, a minimum of 50 square feet of basal area per acre should be left.  The residual basal area should be evenly distributed throughout the SMZ in order to provide adequate protection to the stream. 

So what exactly is basal area?  This forestry term is primarily used as a measure of density and is defined as the cross sectional area of a tree stem in square feet at breast height (4.5 feet above the ground).  Since this can sometimes be a difficult concept for people to understand, especially those unfamiliar with forest measurements, the BMP handbook also includes a general rule of thumb that can be used.  Retaining 50% overstory crown cover within the SMZ can usually serve the same purpose, though in order to achieve this, you probably will have to leave a little more than half the trees in a forest that has reached canopy closure. 

Basal area, once you understand it, is very easy to measure, especially when you have the right tool.  A BAF 10 factor prism can quickly help you determine the residual density of the SMZ.  If you don’t have a prism, the BMP handbook includes a section on page 107 that provides information on how to calculate basal area. 

Remember, any time you are working in SMZs, special care is necessary in order to maintain their critical function.  While it is important to manage these areas, operators should continue to follow all related BMPs.  Roads and skid trails should be located outside of these areas when feasible and logging decks should be at least 50 feet from the edge of the SMZ.  Directional felling should also be used to minimize the amount of debris that enters the stream.  Logging slash that inadvertently enters the stream should be removed.  Lastly, minimize the number of bank trees that are harvested, as these help protect the integrity of the stream, provide shade, and stabilize the bank. 

Thanks for taking the time to increase your knowledge of BMPs and keep up the good work out there in the woods.  Also, please send in any BMP questions you may have, because chances are if you are unsure of something, there is someone else out there who has the same question.  Feel free to contact me at or (936)-639-8180. 

*This article was published in the August 2012 issue of the Texas Logger

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Educators on the Water

Every summer, Texas Forestry Association, an organization of forest landowners, forest industry, loggers, resource professionals, and others, sponsors Teachers’ Conservation Institute (TCI) - a week-long workshop which uses the forest to teach environmental education.  Activities are led by foresters, educators, natural resource conservationists, and industry professionals. [Go to for more information.]

For several years, TFS Water Resources staff have participated in the camps as leaders and/or presenters, talking about water quality, the relationship between forests and water, and how the forestry community works to protect water and soil during forestry operations. 

For the first time, an entire session focusing on water was offered in June of 2012.  Classroom studies and field investigations were conducted during the week on many aspects of water:  physical and chemical properties of water, groundwater, water conservation issues in Texas, watersheds, wetland habitats and wildlife, and more.  There was even a camping trip and canoeing for “up close” water habitat observations.

By the end of the week, participants were certified in Project WET and Watch on Wetlands (environmental education curricula focusing on water), and Leave No Trace.  Several continuing education credits were also offered.

These educators are now even more equipped to share with their students and organizations the importance of good stewardship of our water resources here in Texas and the world.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Photo Challenge: What's Wrong with This Picture?

Proper layout of a logging operation is a critical component of pre-harvest planning - a fundamental BMP. Look closely at the picture below. Can you spot any issues with the location of this road and landing (on the right side of the picture)?

(click on the picture for a larger view)

How about now?

Do you know what the BMP guidelines are for locating roads and landings next to perennial and intermittent streams? What should have been done differently in this case? How could this situation be fixed?

Click on "comments" below and post your answers.

BMP Trivia Question

Stream crossings are critical locations for Best Management Practices (BMPs) because they involve the direct interaction of forest roads (subjected to vehicle traffic) with water resources. To prevent water quality impacts and to maintain the integrity of the stream channel it is important to follow all applicable BMPs. Which of the following statements about stream crossings are true? (Hint: One or more statements may be true)

A. They should be constructed at a 45 degree angle to the stream channel

B. They should be constructed at a 90 degree angle to the stream channel

C. Dirt crossings are acceptable as long as they are removed promptly

D. In some cases it is not necessary to stabilize stream crossings after operations are complete

E. If possible, stream crossings should be avoided

Click on "comments" below and post your answers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Texas Forest Service Resource Specialists Learn About BMPs

BMPRecently-hired resource specialists got a chance to learn about water quality protection issues during a workshop in Hudson.

Forester Todd Thomas and Resource Specialist Bernie Buckner led the class to expose the new employees to Best Management Practices.

“The BMP training helped newer staff learn how to help mitigate water quality issues while they’re working in the forest,” said Forester Todd Nightingale. “They will be able to use what they learned to assist forest landowners with information, and it will help make them more proficient at fireline rehabilitation operations after wildfires.”

Participants got to install waterbars and learned how to manage site disturbances to reduce impacts to local waterways.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Professional Loggers Know BMPs

Are you considering a logger or operator to carry out a forest management activity on your property, but want to know if they have experience with Best Management Practices (BMPs)?

The Texas Forestry Association maintains a searchable online database of individuals who have received BMP training as part of the “Texas Professional Logger” program.

(click on the image below to access the online logger training database)

Why Should I Use a Pro Logger? 

Among other reasons, Pro Loggers have demonstrated consistently higher levels of BMP use. Since 1992, Texas Forest Service has been monitoring the use of voluntary Best Management Practices on forestry operations across East Texas. Each of the 8 rounds of monitoring that have been conducted to date have concluded that proper BMP use is significantly higher for loggers who are familiar with BMPs and/or who have attended formal BMP training. (TFS BMP monitoring reports are available here

What Training Do Pro Loggers Have? 

In order to become classified as a Texas Pro Logger, individuals must receive training in all of the following core courses: 
  1. Best Management Practices - 8 hours 
  2. Silviculture, Wildlife, Wetlands, Endangered Species, Invasives, Special Sites, Aesthetics - 4 hours 
  3. Safety Training - 4-6 hours (must re-take every 2 years) 
  4. Business Management - 4 hours 
Furthermore, in order to maintain their certification, Pro Loggers must attend a minimum of six (6) hours of continuing education training each year. The Texas Forest Service has developed several courses in BMPs that are available for continuing education training in the program.

For information on when training workshops will be held contact the Texas Forestry Association

How Does the Online Database Work? 

You can use the online database to search for the name of a Pro Logger, the company they work for, or where they are located (keep in mind that most contractors work across wide regions and are not necessarily restricted to the town listed as their location). Records for each individual will list their address information, training history, and indicate whether they hold a current Pro Logger Status – look for the Texas Pro Logger seal.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Society of American Foresters Technical Symposium:

"Examining the Effects of Responsible Forest Management on Watershed Health"

The Society of American Foresters in collaboration with the Environmental Law Institute, American Forest Foundation, US Forest Service, National Alliance of Forest Owners, Plum Creek, and Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association hosted a Technical Symposium entitled “Examining the Effects of Responsible Forest Management on Watershed Health” on February 17th, 2012 in Washington D.C. The Keynote Speaker for the event was The Honorable Benjamin H. Grumbles, President of the Clean Water America Alliance and former Assistant Administrator for Water at the Environmental Protection Agency. The symposium featured three panels: Administrative/Regulatory, Legal, and Scientific. 

Videos of the panel discussions, as well as the Keynote address are available on the SAF Policy Website. The speakers for each panel and accompanying PowerPoint presentations can be viewed below each video of the event.

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 2012 BMP Q&A

By: Todd Thomas, Water Resources Forester, Texas Forest Service

Q: Although it does not happen very often, occasionally I will come across a landowner who is not interested in leaving any sort of SMZs on their property. Next time I encounter this sort of situation, how should I handle it?

A: The best way to deal with this is to be informed of all of the benefits provided by SMZs. The first and foremost function of an SMZ is to protect water quality. SMZs protect water quality in four primary ways. The first is to slow down runoff from the surrounding area. By slowing down runoff, the potential for erosion next to the stream has been greatly reduced. The second is holding the soil adjacent to the stream in place; the roots of the vegetation that encompasses the SMZ do a tremendous job of this. The third is thermal protection. The shade provided by the SMZ helps to maintain the pH and the amount of oxygen in the water, maintaining the health of aquatic plants and animals. The fourth way that comes to mind is interception. SMZs intercept rainfall and drastically reduce the amount of sediment that can be displaced as a result of raindrops hitting bare soil directly. Remember, if we want clean water it only makes sense to protect it at its source.

If providing them with information on how SMZs protect water quality is not enough, provide them with some information on how SMZs benefit wildlife. It seems that most private landowners enjoy the wildlife on their property in some capacity and giving them this information could potentially change their mind. Any hunter knows that when you are in a clearcut, one of the best places to hunt is right along an SMZ, no matter what your quarry. One way that SMZs benefit wildlife is by providing edge. In a clearcut, edge is the area adjacent to the boundaries of the clearcut and the area around the SMZ. In these areas, the amount of vegetation that provide food for the wildlife is tremendous due to the amount of sunlight that previously was not reaching the area as well as an increased availability of nutrients and water. SMZs also provide travel corridors for wildlife. Since the SMZ is not as exposed as the rest of the clearcut, wildlife such as deer prefer to use it for travel due to less exposure. Many animals also use SMZs as nesting, den, and bedding sites; also a result of decreased exposure.

If they still are not convinced, remind them that according to Texas Forestry BMPs, SMZs can be thinned as long as they are not thinned so that the basal area gets below 50 square feet per acre. This allows a logger to remove the commercially viable timber while still maintaining the integrity of the SMZ. Basically, this land is not totally taken out of production, just managed in a fashion that protects water quality.

SMZs are an integral part of our best management practices and there is no good reason for removing them. Next time a landowner asks you to cut through an SMZ, remind them of all of the benefits provided by SMZs and what they will be missing out on. Remember, to send any questions you have about BMPs my way and I will be more than happy to answer them. You can reach me by e-mail at or by phone at 936-639-8180. 

*This article was published in the June 2012 issue of the Texas Logger

Friday, June 15, 2012

Photo Challenge: What's Wrong with This Picture?

Stream crossings are critical areas for Best Management Practices (BMPs) because they involve bare dirt roads subjected to vehicle traffic crossing directly over stream channels. BMPs help to protect the quality of the water and the integrity of the channel while providing access across the stream. The picture below shows an attempt to implement BMPs at a stream crossing (SMZ running through the center of the picture), but incorrectly.

Can you tell what is wrong with this picture? How would you have done this differently?

Click on "comments" below and post your answers.

(click on the picture for a larger view)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tailgate Sessions Offered to Loggers

Texas Forest Service, in cooperation with the Texas Logging Council, recently piloted a new BMP training opportunity for logging contractors. The newly established “logger tailgate sessions” deliver concise, focused, onsite BMP training to loggers during active operations. Lunch is sponsored for the participating crews and attendees qualify for one (1) hour of continuing education credit towards the Professional Logger Certification program. So far, these sessions have been conducted for several Temple-Inland contractors.

“We feel this new training program will be extremely beneficial to Texas loggers. Not only does it provide a refresher of the BMPs, it enables attendees to ask specific questions regarding the situations they face on a daily basis. It also allows us to reach the entire crew with this message, not just the contractor or foreman” said Hughes Simpson, Water Resources Program Coordinator.

For more information on these tailgate sessions, or to schedule one for your crew, please call the Texas Forest Service at 936-639-8180.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Water Resources at the 2012 Forest Family Fun Day

The Texas Forest Service Water Resources Program recently participated in the 12th biannual Forest Family Fun Day at the George Henderson Expo Center in Lufkin, Texas. Approximately 1,200 people attended the event. Admission was free and loggers were able to receive up to six hours of continuing education credit for the Texas Pro Logger Program.

The Forest Family Fun Day is sponsored by the Texas Forestry Association and the Texas Logging Council. The event hosted a contest for the best looking log truck, a log auction, a skidder mud race, a log loading contest, and a chainsaw competition. Hands on activities for children were put on by Home Depot and Project Learning Tree that were designed to educate and spark an interest in the outdoors and the forest industry. Of course, there were also many brand new log trucks, skidders, loaders, shears, and other state of the art logging equipment on display.

At the Water Resources Program booth, Donna Work and Todd Thomas passed out information and answered questions related Texas Forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs). Displays and demonstrations also helped kids understand the importance of healthy forests in providing clean water. The booth featured a working Streamside Management Zone (SMZ) diorama, samples of benthic macroinvertebrates, literature on BMPs, and much more.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May 2012 BMP Q&A

By: Todd Thomas, Water Resources Forester, Texas Forest Service

Q: Recently we were doing some work on a tract that had a pond in the middle of it and just to be safe we left a buffer of trees around the pond. I understand that we are to leave an SMZ on perennial and intermittent streams as well as on ephemeral streams depending on site conditions; but what about ponds and why?
A: If the pond is connected to an intermittent or perennial stream, then leaving an SMZ is recommended. Professional judgment, just like with ephemeral streams, can be used on disconnected ponds. Certainly leaving a buffer around a pond is beneficial, and can help maintain high water quality as well as extend the lifespan of the pond.

First and foremost, the SMZ slows down runoff from the surrounding areas. Without this buffer, runoff water would continually gain speed as it headed towards the pond giving it the power to erode the surrounding soil and carry it into the water. Not only does this buffer slow down runoff, but the remaining vegetation intercepts rainfall. It’s hard to believe, but the impact of a raindrop can greatly displace soil. Instead of a direct hit, the trees catch the rain and slow it down so that its impact and resulting erosion is greatly reduced.

Increased sediment from erosion can eventually silt in a pond, but aside from this there is another reason to leave some of the surrounding trees. In all likelihood, trees have grown up on the dam. These trees should be left there or you risk weakening the dam and potentially losing the pond all together. Once these trees are removed, the roots and stumps rot out and an empty space is left there, weakening the structural integrity of the dam, and increasing the risk of the dam collapsing. Not only could you lose the pond, but the water from the dam breaking could cause massive erosion, making the other BMPs you implemented on the tract pointless.

Lastly, SMZs provide shade to the pond’s edge, helping keep the water in the more shallow areas cool. This is especially important for aquatic life such as small insects and fish, which often serve as food for the larger fish in the pond.

Next time you stumble across a pond or lake on a tract remember, that if it is part of a stream system, be sure to leave an SMZ. If it is not, consider the benefits of leaving a buffer if you deem it necessary.

Before I wrap this up, I want to take a moment and mention that the Texas Forest Service Water Resources Program has recently released a new online “blog” on which we will be discussing and highlighting current BMP and water related issues. The blog also contains all of our past BMP Q&A articles dating back to 2000! You can search through the articles by date or keyword and add your own thoughts and experiences by commenting on the posts. The blog is located at I would encourage you to stay up to date with the latest BMP news and information by checking it often. Be sure to tell your friends about this new resource as well.

In addition to the blog, there is a wealth of BMP information on the Texas Forest Service website at If you have any questions you would like answered or to see in this article, please send them my way, you can contact me by phone at (936) 639-8180 or email at

 *This article was published in the May 2012 issue of the Texas Logger

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Texas Forest Service Teaches Austin Students About Forests and Water

The Texas Forest Service Water Resources Program recently visited Austin to participate in the 2012 Austin Water Science Expo.

The two-day annual event is organized by Austin Water Utility and hosts around 2,000 5th and 6th grade students from AISD. Students learn about the role of water, both as a natural resource and as a public utility, and consider water related issues from the watershed scale down to individual household use.

Donna Work and Chuck Coup explained the importance of healthy forests in maintaining water quality and discussed the impacts that wildfires can have on water resources. A demonstration showing the importance of riparian vegetation and Streamside Management Zones (SMZs) was also conducted using a rainfall simulator model to illustrate the forest-water relationship.

This was the 18th year for the event. Texas Forest Service is already looking forward to participating again next year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Free Riparian Management Workshop - May 3, 2012

(Click on image for larger view)
The Lampasas Watershed Partnership will host a one-day “Proper Functioning Condition" Riparian workshop on May 3 in Hamilton, TX.

Riparian and wetland areas occur along watercourses or water bodies and occupy the transitional area between the upland and water ecosystems. Typical examples would include floodplains, stream banks and lakeshores.

Participants will learn the basic interaction of Hydrology, Erosion/Deposition, and Vegetation for central Texas creeks and rivers. Among topics to be covered are channels, floodplains, water table, vegetation, base flow, flood flow, sediment and how these things in combination are what make up the Riparian Area. The workshop, which is free and open to the public, consists of classroom and field instruction on the South Lampasas River.

The course primarily will be conducted by U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel.

Three continuing education units will be available to holders of Texas Department of Agriculture private pesticide applicator licenses.

The workshop will be on May 3 at the Texas Game Warden Training Center, 4363 FM 1047, Hamilton, TX. Lunch will be provided for registered participants. The field portion will begin at the Texas Game Warden Training Center and then move down river to the Bettie Sheldon Black Ranch.

There is no fee required to attend these workshops, however, those who wish to attend must RSVP to Lisa Prcin by email or phone by May 1. For more information contact her at 254-774-6008 or A draft workshop agenda is available at as well as maps to the workshop location.

The Lampasas River Watershed Partnership is a collaborative effort by local stakeholders, AgriLife Research, and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board to address water quality concerns within the Lampasas River watershed through the development of a watershed protection plan.  The Lampasas River watershed encompasses parts of Mills, Hamilton, Lampasas, Coryell, Burnet, Bell and Williamson counties.

Friday, April 20, 2012

New BMP Demonstration on the Jones State Forest

Texas Forest Service recently installed a new stream crossing demonstration on the W. Goodrich Jones State Forest in Conroe. The demonstration is part of the forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs) demo tour that provides an opportunity for the forestry sector to see how properly installed BMPs look and function. The tour currently has 10 demonstration sites.

The crossing utilizes 3 portable bridgemats (4' x 16' x 8') made out of sturdy hardwood cants fastened together with threaded rods. The bridgemat crossing provides reliable access across Mill Set Gully and replaces a failing timber bridge. Bridgemat crossings are a readily-available and proven method of crossing streams and ditches in a ‘low-impact’ manner that protects water quality. They are simple to install, and can be easily removed and transported to another location after an operation is completed.

To learn more about this and other BMP demonstrations stop by the Jones State Forest, or visit our virtual BMP tour.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Post-Fire Erosion Control Measures

On January 13, 2012, the Lost Pines Recovery Team in Bastrop County provided a free educational workshop for landowners affected by the recent wildfires. The topics covered a wide range of subjects, providing information useful to to any landowner impacted by the recent wildfires in Texas (not just those in Bastrop County). The Texas Forest Service Water Resources Program presented information on erosion control measures that landowners can take following wildfire to reduce the risks of soil and water degradation.

The presentations are available online as a standard PDF document, or as a video of the presentations. To access them click on the images below:

To view the PDF documents you will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. The software is available as a free download from the Adobe website. To view the video presentations you will need to have Apple QuickTime. The software is also available as a free download from the Apple website.

Additional information on post-fire erosion control can be found on the Bastrop County disaster recovery/relief website (

Sunday, April 1, 2012

BMP Trivia Question

Streamside Management Zones (SMZs) are protective areas maintained on either side of perennial and intermittent streams, extending from the edge of each bank, to protect water quality during forestry operations. Among other things, these areas trap and retain sediments, maintain bank stability, and provide shade to maintain cool water temperatures. According to the BMP Handbook, what are 3 of the 11 Recommended Specifications for the protection and maintenance of SMZs?


Click on "comments" below and post your answers.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Training Courses are Now Available Online

Do you want to test your forestry knowledge?  Obtain continuing education credits for the Texas Professional Logger and other certification programs?  Well you are in luck.  CFEgroup, a website designed to provide continuing education opportunities for the forest sector, can now be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, adding a little convenience to your already hectic schedule. 

The first course to be offered is the Forestry BMP Refresher Course developed by the Texas Forest Service.  This module is approved for two (2) hours of continuing education credit for the Texas Professional Logger Program.  It reviews many of the fundamental aspects of using BMPs and their importance in protecting our water resources while minimizing erosion and sedimentation. 

To begin the online training, go to and follow the directions on the screen. If you  have any questions or need technical support, please contact Eric Taylor at 903-834-6191 or  Additional courses will be offered in the near future, so check back often.