2.0 – Forestry

The California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), California Coastal Commission (CCC), and other State agencies have identified 12 management measures to address various phases of forestry operations relevant to controlling nonpoint sources of pollution that affect State waters. The forestry management measures are for the most part a system of practices used and recommended by the Board of Forestry and Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in rules or guidance. Associated with each management measure are management practices that are designed to reduce the quantities of pollutants entering receiving waters. Forestry management practices are harvest and engineering techniques that help reduce nonpoint source (NPS pollution). Those who own and harvest the land are responsible for implementation of the management measures and management practices to minimize water quality impairment. Management practices that protect water quality are required by the California Forest Practice Rules. Many rules are specific to the regions or counties where forest management occurs. A registered professional forester can be of great assistance in navigating local regulations and developing a timber harvest plan. A fact sheet has been prepared for each management measure to inform readers of the programs, resources, and case studies specific to California and the management measure.

Silviculture contributes approximately 3 to 9 percent of NPS pollution to the nation’s waters. This figure can be higher in some watersheds where silviculture is a major economic activity. Without adequate controls, forestry operations may degrade the characteristics of waters that receive drainage from forestlands. For example, sediment concentrations can increase because of accelerated erosion, water temperatures can increase because of removal of overstory riparian shade, dissolved oxygen can be depleted because of the accumulation of slash and other organic debris, and concentrations of organic and inorganic chemicals can increase because of harvesting and fertilizers and pesticides.

The NPS pollutant of greatest concern with respect to forestry activities is sediment. The potential for sediment delivery to streams from almost all timber-harvesting activities and from forest roads regardless of their level of use or age is a long-term concern. Other pollutants of significance, including nutrients, toxic chemicals and metals, organic matter, pathogens, herbicides, and pesticides, are also of concern; problems associated with these other pollutants and increases in temperature generally do not extend beyond 2 years from the time of harvest or are associated with a specific activity, such as an herbicide application. Nevertheless, all of these pollutants have the potential to affect water quality and aquatic habitat. Minimizing their delivery to surface water and ground water deserves serious consideration before and during forestry activities. Forest harvesting can also affect the hydrology of a watershed, and hydrologic alterations within a watershed have the potential to degrade water quality and adversely affect wetlands.

Use the links below to find more information for each of the following management measures

General Resources

There are several federal and State agencies and programs that can provide general information to promote sustainable forestry practices and prevent NPS pollution from entering receiving waters. The agencies and programs listed below can provide assistance and information for all 12 management measures. Resources specific to each of the forestry management measures can be found on the corresponding fact sheet.

  • California Department of Wildlife provides information and recommendations to private landowners on programs and activities for the protection, management, and enhancement of native wildlife, fish, plants, and habitats. A variety of programs and partnerships between the State and private landowners are available. These initiatives could include timber management in the context of improving wildlife habitat.
  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDFA), and Forest Improvement Program (CFIP) encourages private and public investment in, and improved management of, California’s forestlands and resources. This focus is to ensure adequate high-quality timber supplies; related employment and other economic benefits; and the protection, maintenance, and enhancement of a productive and stable forest resource system for the benefit of present and future generations.
  • California Forest Stewardship Program is designed to encourage good stewardship of private forestland. The program provides technical and financial assistance to influence positive changes to forestland management, assists communities in solving common watershed problems, and helps landowners.
  • CDFAs Fire and Resource Assessment Program (FRAP) assesses the amount and extent of California’s forests and rangelands, analyzes their conditions, and identifies alternative management and policy guidelines.
  • North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board Timber Operations staff perform regulatory activities including pre- and post-harvest inspections, watershed analysis, stream monitoring, and TMDL development.
  • USDA NRCS National Forestry Handbook contains methodology and procedures relative to forestry technology.
  • USDA NRCS National Forestry Manual describes forestry policy within the NRCS.
  • USDA, Center for Watershed Protection (CWP), Urban Watershed Forestry Manual provides information on methods for increasing forest cover in a watershed; specific ways to enable developers, engineers, or landscape architects to incorporate more trees into a development site; and detailed guidance on urban tree planting at both the development site and the watershed scale. Parts 1 and 2 of the manual are available for download at this Website.
  • USDA, Forest Land Enhancement Program (FLEP) was part of Title VIII of the 2002 Farm Bill. FLEP replaces the Stewardship Incentives Program (SIP) and the Forestry Incentives Program (FIP). FLEP is optional in each State and is a voluntary program for non-industrial private forest (NIPF) landowners. It provides for technical, educational, and cost-share assistance to promote sustainability of the NIPF forests.
  • USDA, Healthy Forests and Rangelands, a portal to information about the National Fire Plan (NFP), was developed in August 2000, following a landmark wildland fire season, with the intent of actively responding to severe wildland fires and their impacts to communities while ensuring sufficient firefighting capacity for the future.
  • USDA, Healthy Forests and Rangelands, a portal to information about the Healthy Forests Initiative (HFI) was launched in August, 2002 with the intent to reduce the risks severe wildfires pose to people, communities, and the environment. By protecting forests, woodlands, shrublands, and grasslands from unnaturally intensive and destructive fires, HFI helps improve the condition of our public lands, increases firefighter safety, and conserves landscape attributes valued by society.
  • USEPA, National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Forestry this document serves as a technical guidance and reference manuscript for use by State, territory, and authorized tribal managers and the public regarding the implementation of NPS pollution management measures from forestry activities. The manual covers NPS pollution activities related to forestry, water quality effects as a result of forestry pollutants, and management measures or mechanisms to control NPS pollution. Guidance from this document is applicable to both inland and coastal areas but does not address all practices and techniques specific to local or regional soils, climates, or forest types.

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