Timberland - Are BMPs for You?

Are BMPs for You?

Brandon White

What are BMPs?  Best Management Practices are proactive methods or practices that have been determined to be both effective and practicable and used during forest management activities to prevent or reduce the amount of pollution by non-point sources to water quality while achieving related goals to silviculture, wildlife, biodiversity, aesthetics and/or recreation.

The following chart (Smallidge & Goff 1998) shows some various categories of BMPs and goals related to each of those categories.

BMPs can be divided into separate categories that relate to specific, if somewhat subjective goals. Goals specify the outcome of forest management activities associated with each category of BMP


Common Goals

water quality

  • reduce or eliminate non-point source pollution; maintain water clarity, quality, and quantity for human consumption and fish and wildlife habitat


  • maintain the desired stand characteristics, including adequate regeneration of suitable species

wildlife and biodiversity

  • provide habitat, food and cover for a variety of wildlife species; optimize diversity of native plant and animal species among stands (landscape approach)

soil quality

  • maintain soil characteristics to ensure the potential of the site to continue productivity at current and historic levels


  • create or maintain forest conditions that are aesthetically pleasing (entirely subjective and owner specific)


  • provide opportunities for land owners and/or the public to pursue desired, often multiple-use, recreational activities

Obviously, these practices will vary widely by region and state and actual implementation will be determined by many variables/constraints such as the biological and physical characteristics of a forest stand. These characteristics include topography, soil type, timber type and density, distance to water body or water source, etc. Other variables/constraints may include stewardship and financial interests of the landowner.

The key word in the previous definition is proactive.  Being proactive simply means planning ahead. Using the BMP handouts published by your state or consulting with a professional forester to pre plan any forest management activity is the first step in the process of implementing the proper Best Management Practices.

Timber harvesting or logging is the forest management practice most associated with BMPs. This is where planning is vital. For example, since in-woods rutting during a harvest operation is a major contributor to soil disturbance and erosion, the soil types that are present should be identified in advance. It can then be decided whether harvesting can be done during wet conditions or whether it is a dry weather tract only. The Sale layout (where the timber will be cut) is another major factor in planning harvest operations. The sale layout should include such things as: identifying, delineating and mapping tract boundaries, specific harvest areas, special sites if applicable, Streamside Management Zones (SMZs), logging/haul roads, sets/loading deck locations, etc.

Let’s use SMZs for a quick look at what could be considered on just one major factor…

SMZs: Can you avoid crossing them with skid trails and logging equipment during your operation?  If SMZs must be crossed, identify each logical crossing location, determine adequate or acceptable crossing methods and plan how those crossings will be treated after harvesting is completed.

Another example of an area for careful planning is deciding if building/pushing new roads is needed. Consideration should be given on where the road is located based on soil type, topography, will the road be a temporary or permanent and whether or not it will cross any streams.  If stream crossings are unavoidable, the same, if not more planning and care should be taken as with the in-woods crossing on skid trails. There are several BMPs that should be used to stabilize the roads after the harvesting is complete such as water diversion devices like water bars, rolling dips, wing ditches, silt screen or seeding. These should be used whether the roads are new or existing. If this is not done then all the pre planning was for naught.  By planning and effectively implementing the proper BMPs the likelihood of preventing and controlling nonpoint source pollutions is greatly increased. 

An obviously important factor to the effectiveness of BMPs associated with timber harvesting is the actual contractor doing the logging.  This is where having a forester that has worked with several local contractors can be critical. If you prefer to manage the operation yourself then do your homework and get as much information about potential logging contractors as possible. I know that Louisiana and Texas have training programs available to logging contractors that specifically teach and train them in BMPs.  You can find lists of these trained loggers on the state forest service websites or the Texas or Louisiana Forestry Association websites.  For Louisiana these trained loggers are referred to as Master Loggers and in Texas they are Pro Loggers.

This brief article is simply a quick and general overview of what Best Management Practices are, how they are used and why they are important.  While in most states these practices are voluntary and the law does not require the use of them, forest certification programs driven by market demand has elevated the awareness and implementation of BMPs.  These certification programs require that individual landowners, timber investment management organizations and/or corporations participating either meet or exceed the recommended BMPs for each state where they own timberland or operate a manufacturing facility. Whether or not you are required by law or by participation in a certification program, we as foresters and land managers strongly encourage that you implement BMPs whenever you conduct forestry activities. First and foremost it’s the right thing to do for the protection, conservation and overall health of our environment. Secondly, it goes a long way in public relations, personal impressions and general acceptance of forestry activities as a whole. And if you are a landowner with money invested in timber, the forestry industry is an important part of the equation for the overall value of your land.

Most states have some available material describing their own Best Management Practices and any regulations associated with those practices. This material will give recommendations, definitions and describe in detail the implementation of specific practices and procedures. In most cases their BMP manuals are available in both hard copy and digital form. See the links below to review the Best Management Practices manuals for both Texas and Louisiana. Other links are provided for the TFA and LFA websites for lists of trained loggers and other landowner information.

-  Brandon White is a consulting forester and a licensed real estate professional for RecLand Realty in Jasper, TX. Click HERE for his contact information.

Texas Forest Service - Best Management Practices

Texas Forestry Association

Louisiana Forestry - Best Management Practices 

Louisiana Forestry Association