Water Quality

Forests play an important role in the health of our environment and our economy, including clean and abundant water resources, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, forest products, and jobs. As strong advocates for maintaining healthy and sustainable forests and ensuring water quality, NASF supports laws, regulations, and policies that contribute to that goal.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) regulates forestry as a nonpoint source of pollution. Nonpoint sources are diffused sources that cover larger areas, such as rainwater runoff from managed forests and other land uses across a landscape. Ongoing state efforts to protect water quality through best management practice (BMP) programs have served to effectively manage nonpoint source pollution from forestry activities for over three decades.

Under the Clean Water Act, point sources discharging pollutants require National Pollutant Discharge System (NPDES) permits administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) directly or states with delegated EPA authority. Since 1976, as nonpoint sources, forest roads have not required NPDES permits. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has now ruled that forest roads and their associated stormwater runoff gathering systems are point sources subject to the NPDES permit programs. The decision means that forest landowners will have to obtain NPDES permits for some or all of their roads.

State Foresters has joined state clean water, wildlife and agriculture associations reaching out to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson urging the agency to defend current regulations that support the established success of the state-based BMP approach to effectively manage nonpoint source pollution from forestry activities. In addition, 29 state attorneys general sent a letter to the Solicitor General as he decides if/how to weigh in with the Supreme Court regarding whether to hear the 9th Circuit decision related to permitting on forest roads.

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