2J – Wetlands Forest Management

Management Measure

Plan, operate, and manage normal, ongoing forestry activities (including harvesting, road design and construction, site preparation and regeneration, and chemical management) to adequately protect the aquatic functions of forested wetlands.

Forested wetlands provide beneficial ecosystem functions such as flood-flow alteration, sediment trapping, nutrient retention and removal, provision of important habitat for fish and wildlife, and provision of timber products. Wetlands in the continental United States have declined greatly in the past 40 years because of conversion to other land uses. In the past 200 years, California lost 91 percent of its original wetlands, mostly because of conversion to agriculture (Yuhas, 2003).

Management Practices

  • Road building/maintenance
    Road construction and maintenance can adversely affect forested wetlands and should be avoided. Wetlands can fill with sediment runoff generated by road construction and the use of heavy equipment. Wetlands can also be degraded by improper road construction and ditching that alters wetland hydrology. In an effort to prevent these potential adverse effects, section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires the use of appropriate management practices for road construction and maintenance in wetlands so that flow and circulation patterns are not impaired.

    Temporary roads should be used in forested wetlands whenever possible. Temporary roads can be constructed to provide adequate crossroad drainage at all natural drainageways. Temporary drainage structures include culverts, bridges, and porous material such as corduroy or chunkwood. The root mat in any wetland that has grass mounds or other uneven vegetation should not be disturbed. Any temporary wetland crossing is enhanced by using a root or slash mat to provide additional support to the equipment.

    Where construction of fill roads is necessary, a permeable fill material such as gravel or crushed rock should be used for at least the first layer of fill. The use of pervious materials helps maintain the natural flow regimes of subsurface water. Adequate cross drainage should be provided to maintain the natural surface and subsurface flow of the wetland.
  • Chemical use
    Wetland contamination can result from improper application or use of herbicides and fertilizers. Application of herbicides with toxicity to aquatic life should be avoided. Instead, herbicide formulations that are approved for use in or near water should be used where feasible and applicable. These herbicides should be applied by injection to individual stems to reduce losses to surface waters. Fertilizers should be applied when leaching will be minimal, and slow-release fertilizers should be chosen when possible. This practice reduces the potential of the nutrients to leach in to ground water, and it increases the availability of nutrients for plant uptake.
  • Site preparation
    Site preparation techniques that degrade wetlands onsite or downstream should be avoided. Extensive site preparation on bottoms where frequent flooding occurs can cause excessive erosion and stream sedimentation. The degree of acceptable site preparation is governed by the amount and frequency of flooding, soil type, and species suitability and depends on the regeneration method used.
  • Permits
    Local, State, and federal agencies should be conferred with to identify applicable wetland regulations and obtain necessary permits to work in wetlands. Some forestry activities in wetlands are exempt from federal permitting requirements under section 404(f) of the Clean Water Act, while others are not.
  • Harvesting
    Harvest methods that cause less soil disturbance and compaction, such as cable logging or helicopter logging, should be considered. If using heavy equipment, low-ground-pressure, ultrawide, or high-flotation tires on logging trucks and skidders should be used to reduce soil compaction and erosion. Ground skidding harvesting operations should be suspended during wet periods in seasonally flooded wetlands.


  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Resource Management Program maintains the sustainability of California’s natural resources 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.
  • California Wetlands Information System, Wetlands Information System is designed to provide comprehensive wetlands information to the general public, the educational community, and government agencies. It is a compilation of public and private sector information, including maps, environmental documents, agency roles in wetlands management, restoration and mitigation activities, regulatory permitting, and wetland policies. It also includes a wetlands database and inventory.

Information Resources

  • Save The Bay, Protecting Local Wetlands: a Toolbox for Your Community this document, produced by Save The Bay, in conjunction with the attorneys of Shute, Mihaly, and Weinberger, LLP, is designed to help government officials, resource agencies, nonprofit organizations, community activists, and landowners protect and restore their local wetlands throughout the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary.
  • SWRCB, NPS Encyclopedia management measure 6: wetlands and riparian areas.
  • USDA Forest Service, USDA NRCS, and USEPA, Forested Wetlands Functions, Benefits, and Use of Best Management Practices the purpose of this publication is to present an array of management practices to protect the function of forested wetlands.
  • USEPA, Watershed Academy Web: Forestry Best Management. Forest Wetland Management is a forestry management module, with a series of interactive fact sheets on forestry management practices. The Website includes diagrams, photographs, and review questions.
  • USEPA, Forested Swamps. This Website provides information on various types of forested wetlands.


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.

Yuhas, R.H. 2003. Loss of Wetlands in the Southwestern United States. U.S. Geological Survey. Accessed March 27, 2003.

NPS Encyclopedia Site Map