Best Management Practices

It is estimated that more than 50 percent of the nation’s drinking water originates from forested landscapes. This means that state forestry agencies play a lead role in providing the United States with clean water. To ensure water quality is protected and soil stays in place, all states have developed BMPS for timber harvesting and forest management operations.

Forestry best management practices (BMPs) are used to protect water quality during timber harvests and other forest management activities.

BMPs ensure that the equipment used in timber harvests and silvicultural activities like forest thinnings don’t inadvertently push sediment or brush into nearby waterways or promote erosion of stream banks. Some examples of BMPs include correctly planning and constructing forest roads (on the appropriate slopes, etc.), log landings, stream buffers, and stream crossings.

Most states began developing BMPs in the 1970s to encourage forest managers and loggers to take the necessary steps to protect water quality when undertaking silvicultural activities. Many states have similar BMPs and all states evaluate, test, revise, and adapt their BMPs over time. There is no federal law that requires forestry BMPs; in fact, the Clean Water Act exempts normal silvicultural activities from National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements.

To provide a national-level evaluation of the effectiveness of BMPs, NASF conducts periodic surveys of all the state BMP programs.  In 2015, NASF released a report, “Protecting Water Quality through State Forestry Best Management Practices,” which aimed to provide justification for greater investments in these state-led programs. Most recently, in 2019, NASF released “Protecting the Nation’s Water: State Forestry Agencies and Best Management Practices,” a national update on the use of BMPs.

Click on the map below to:

    • Learn whether BMPs in a given state are required, quasi-regulatory, or voluntary,
    • Which state agencies are responsible for BMP policy development, and
    • The latest state recommendations or requirements for BMP implementation.

Northeast-Midwest Region

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