2B – Streamside Management Areas

Management Measure

  1. Establish and maintain a Streamside Management Area (SMA) along surface waters that is sufficiently wide and includes a sufficient number of canopy species to serve as a buffer against detrimental changes in the temperature regime of the water body, to provide bank stability, and to withstand wind damage.
  2. Manage the SMA, including flood-prone areas, in such a way as to protect against soil disturbance in the SMA and delivery to the stream of sediments and nutrients generated by forestry activities, including harvesting.
  3. Manage the SMA canopy species to provide a sustainable source of large woody debris needed for instream channel structure and aquatic species habitat.

Management Practices

Under the California Forest Practice Rules, SMAs are called Watercourse and Lake Protection Zones (WLPZs). A Registered Professional Forester (RPF) preparing the Timber Harvest Plan (THP) should conduct a field examination of all lakes and watercourses and map all lakes and watercourses that occur in the vicinity of the planned harvest.

The following are general practices that can be used to establish SMAs:

  • Evaluate sensitive conditions
    Evaluate areas near, and areas with the potential to directly impact, watercourses and lakes for sensitive conditions including existing and proposed roads, skid trails and landings, unstable and erodible watercourse banks, unstable upslope areas, debris, jam potential, inadequate flow capacity, changeable channels, overflow channels, flood prone areas, and riparian zones.
  • Spawning/rearing habitat
    Map the location of spawning and rearing habitat for anadromous salmonids, and evaluate the condition of the habitat using habitat typing that, at a minimum, identifies the pool, flatwater, and riffle percentages.
  • Establish a Watercourse and Lake Protection Zone
    Determine the required width of the WLPZ according to the guidelines in California Forest Practice Rules. WLPZs vary between 50 and 150 feet depending on the steepness of the terrain and the class of the watercourse the WLPZ is designed to protect.
    • Protect vegetation in the WLPZ
      Within the WLPZ, retain at least 75 percent surface cover and undisturbed area to act as a filter strip, for raindrop energy dissipation, and for wildlife habitat. Mark trees in WLPZs before other preharvest activities begin to ensure retention of the shade canopy filter strip properties of the WLPZ and the maintenance of a multi-storied stand to protect water quality values. Provide for future large woody debris for aquatic habitat by retaining at least two living conifers per acre at least 16 inches diameter breast high and 50 feet tall within 50 feet of perennial streams.
    • Protect soils in WLPZs to prevent erosion
      Treat exposed mineral soil in the WLPZ adjacent to perennial streams with mulch, riprap, grass seed, or chemical soil stabilizers to reduce soil loss. This does not apply to the traveled surface of roads. Where necessary to protect beneficial uses of water from timber operations, use protection measures such as seeding, mulching, or replanting to retain and improve the natural ability of the ground cover within the standard width of the WLPZ to filter sediment, minimize soil erosion, and stabilize banks of watercourses and lakes.
  • Establish an Equipment Limitation Zone
    Where operations occur adjacent to certain watercourses, designate an Equipment Limitation Zone (ELZ) where required by the California Forest Practice Rules. Excluding heavy equipment from streamside areas helps to prevent soil disturbance, erosion, and sedimentation in streams.


  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Resource Management Program maintains the sustainability of all of California’s natural resources. The Department achieves this goal by administering State and federal forestry assistance programs for landowners, demonstrating sound management practices on eight demonstration State forests, enforcing the California Forest Practice Act on all nonfederal timberlands, providing research and educational outreach to the public on forest pests such as Sudden Oak Death, and coordinating efforts for fuel reduction to reduce the risk of fire and improve the quality of California’s ecosystems. CDF’s mission emphasizes the management and protection of California’s natural resources.

Information Resources

  • Southern California National Forest Management Plan Revisions this revised land management plan (forest plan) for the Cleveland National Forest describe the strategic direction at the broad program-level for managing the land and its resources over the next 10 to 15 years. The strategic direction was developed by an interdisciplinary planning team working with forest staff using extensive public involvement and the best science available.
  • SWRCB NPS Encyclopedia, Management Measure 6A: Protection and Conservation of wetlands and riparian Areas provides access to more informational resources and programs.
  • USEPA, nonpoint source pollution, management measure guidance on streamside management area (SMA) or also commonly referred to as a streamside management zone (SMZ) for forestry land use category.


CDF. 2003. California Forest Practice Rules. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Resource Management, Forest Practice Program, Sacramento, CA.

Dykstra, D.P., and Froehlich, H.A. 1976. Costs of Stream Protection During Timber Harvest. Journal of Forestry 74(10): 684-687.

Olsen, E.D. 1987. A Case Study of the Economic Impact of Proposed Forest Practices Rules Regarding Stream Buffer Strips on Private Lands in the Oregon Coast Range. In Managing Oregon’s Riparian Zone for Timber, Fish and Wildlife, NCASI Technical Bulletin No. 514, pp. 52-57.

USEPA. 2002. National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Forestry. Pre-Final Draft. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.

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