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Forestry activities, specifically clearcutting, site preparation, burning, fertilizer application, road building and maintenance, and pesticide application, can cause water quality problems at the site scale and possibly at the watershed scale due to cumulative effects of multiple activities. To minimize the nonpoint pollution created by such activities, the forest industry, the USFS, and the states began developing and implementing BMPs over a quarter century ago. Although BMPs vary from state to state, they share the following basic recommendations: 1) minimize bare ground coverage and soil compaction 2) separate bare ground from surface waters, 3) separate fertilizer and pesticide application from surface waters, 4) inhibit hydraulic connections between bare ground and surface waters, 5) provide a forested buffer around streams, 6) engineer stable road surfaces and stream crossings, 7) avoid harvest on steep convergent slopes. Water quality sensitivities vary across the U.S. due to differences in silvicultural techniques, and general physiographic differences between regions. Specific BMP recommendations vary from state to state due to these reasons and due to socio-political differences between states. Forestry BMP effectiveness is an active area of research, and a variety of studies in different locations and using different methods have found BMPs to greatly reduce water quality impacts of forestry activities. The question of whether these BMPs are sufficiently effective, however, requires watershed assessments of pollutant sources, fate, and transport. The ideal TMDL program will provide an appropriate context for evaluating BMP effectiveness.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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