2F – Site Preparation and Forest Regeneration

Management Measure

Confine onsite potential NPS pollution and erosion resulting from site preparation and the regeneration of forest stands. The components of the management measure for site preparation and regeneration are as follows:

  1. Select a method of site preparation and regeneration suitable for the site conditions.
  2. Conduct mechanical tree planting and ground-disturbing site preparation activities on the contour of sloping terrain.
  3. Do not conduct mechanical site preparation and mechanical tree planting on Streamside Management Areas (SMAs).
  4. Protect surface waters from logging debris and slash material.
  5. Suspend operations during wet periods.
  6. Locate windrows at a safe distance from drainages and SMAs to control movement of the material during high runoff conditions.
  7. Conduct bedding operations in high-water-table areas during dry periods of the year. Conduct bedding in sloping areas on the contour.
  8. Protect small ephemeral drainages when conducting mechanical tree planting.

Management Practices

The goals of site preparation activities are to encourage maximum timber productivity, minimize fire hazards, prevent substantial adverse effects on soil resources and on fish and wildlife habitat, and prevent degradation of water quality. Site preparation has both short- and long-term components. Short-term goals can include treating logging slash to reduce the risk of wildfire and eliminate habitat for disease organisms. Long-term goals are aimed at creating conditions favorable to growing the next rotation of desired timber species. Site preparation and regeneration techniques influence the concentration of nutrients, pesticides, and sediment in runoff several years after timber harvest.

Site Preparation Practices

  • Timber harvest plan addendum
    Where site preparation will occur on the logging area, site preparation details should be included in an addendum to the timber harvest plan (THP). Relevant details include the general methods of site preparation to be used, the types of equipment, if any, to be used for mechanical site preparation and firebreak construction, the methods for protecting any desirable residual trees in accordance with CDF regulations, a map identifying the boundaries of site preparation areas, and a timetable of site preparation operations.
  • Streamside Management Areas
    Provide SMAs of sufficient width to protect streams from sedimentation by the 10-year storm and do not conduct mechanical site preparation in SMAs.
  • Runoff control and dispersal
    Use undisturbed areas to control and disperse concentrated runoff from roads, landings, tractor roads, firebreaks, and erosion control facilities where it flows into site preparation areas.
  • Slash management
    Logging slash that poses a fire hazard to homes, roads, or recreation areas should be lopped, removed, chipped, or piled and burned according to CDF regulations. Broadcast burning should be conducted so that it does not fully consume the larger organic debris that retains soil on slopes and stabilizes watercourse banks. Slash should not be placed in perennial or intermittent drainages, and any slash that accidentally enters drainages should be removed. Slash can clog the channel and cause alterations in drainage configuration and increases in sedimentation, and extra organic material can lower the dissolved oxygen content of the stream. Slash also allows silt to accumulate in the drainage and to be carried into the stream during storm events.
  • Windrows
    These should be located a safe distance from drainages to prevent material from moving into the drainages during high-flow conditions. Locating windrows above the 50-year floodplain usually prevents windrowed material from entering floodwaters.
  • Pest control
    Timber operations should be conducted in such a way as to minimize the buildup of destructive insect populations and the spread of forest diseases. Site preparation measures should be carried out to mitigate adverse infestation or infection impacts from the timber operation. Insects breeding in pine logging slash can be a significant problem. Measures to reduce insect diseases include removing logging slash from the site, piling and burning, chipping, debarking, treating with an appropriate pesticide, or piling and covering the slash with clear plastic.
  • Erosion control
    Soil movement should be minimized when shearing, piling, or raking. Incorporation of soil material into windrows and piles during their construction should be avoided. A rake, rather than a blade, should be used to move slash. If using a blade is unavoidable, the blade should be kept above the soil surface. This helps retain nutrient-rich topsoil, which promotes rapid site recovery and tree growth and increases the effectiveness of the windrow in minimizing sedimentation.
  • Heavy equipment
    Heavy equipment for site preparation should not be used under saturated soil conditions. Mechanical site preparation (except drum chopping) should not be conducted on slopes greater than 30 percent. On sloping terrain greater than 10 percent, or on highly erosive soils, mechanical site preparation equipment should be operated on the contour.

Forest Regeneration Practices

  • USEPA (1993) recommends that seedlings be distributed evenly across the site and be ordered well in advance of planting time to ensure their availability. On highly erodible sites and steep slopes, and within SMAs, it is recommended that seedlings be planted by hand rather than using heavy equipment. Heavy equipment used in other areas should be operated along the contour of the slope to avoid forming ditches that can concentrate runoff and exacerbate erosion. Machines should not be operated on soils with steep slopes or excess moisture because they can become unstable and result in erosion or mass wasting, which could lead to injuries or pollution. Slits dug for planting seedlings should be closed at numerous points along their length to reduce the likelihood of channeling flows.


  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Forestry Incentives Program (FIP) is a cooperative program involving the and the USDA Forest Service. FIP’s purpose is to enhance the productivity of private, nonindustrial forestland by providing financial and technical assistance for timber stand improvement and reforestation, such as site preparation and seedling planting.

Information Resources


Ballard, T.M. 2000. Impacts of forest management on northern forest soils. Forest Ecology and Management 133: 37-42.

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

Dissmeyer, G.E. 1986. Economic impacts of erosion control in forests. In Proceedings of the Southern Forestry Symposium, November 19-21, 1985, Atlanta, GA, edited by S. Carpenter, Oklahoma State University Agricultural Conference Series, pp. 262-287.

Piatek, K.B., and H.L. Allen. 2000. Site preparation effects on foliar N and P use, retranslocation, and transfer to litter in 15-year old Pinus taeda. Forest Ecology and Management 129: 143-152.

USEPA. 1993. Guidance Specifying Management Measures for Sources of Nonpoint Pollution in Coastal Waters EPA 840-B-92-002. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.

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