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.