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.