Paper summarizes literature addressing effectiveness of forestry best management practices

Following passage of the Clean Water Act, states developed and implemented forestry best management practices (BMPs) to reduce nonpoint source pollution during forest management. Because forestry BMPs continue to evolve as water quality standards are redefined and performance measures are changed, there is an ongoing need for research to assess whether BMP implementation fully achieves the goal of protecting water quality. 

Recently, authors with Virginia Tech and NCASI published a paper summarizing BMP research that has appeared in the peer-reviewed literature and had a direct emphasis on how BMP implementation levels could affect soil erosion and/or stream sedimentation. The paper primarily focused on relatively recent literature (past 20 years) so that the findings are more indicative of current forest operations, techniques, and equipment and BMP prescriptions.

Authors of the paper are Richard Cristan, W. Michael Aust, M. Chad Bolding, Scott M. Barrett, and John F. Munsell of Virginia Tech, and Erik Schilling of NCASI.
The authors conclude that “results from this literature review indicate that forestry BMPs minimize water quality effects of forest operations when implemented as recommended by state forestry agencies. While BMP effectiveness studies are often site or region specific, they clearly demonstrate a common outcome.”

The abstract for the paper follows.

“In response to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (a.k.a., Clean Water Act) of 1972, forestry bestmanagement practices (BMPs) were developed and subsequently implemented to address NPS pollution during forest management. BMP guidelines vary by state and can be non-regulatory, quasi-regulatory, or regulatory. To determine how effective the guidelines for protecting water quality are, research literature relating to BMP effectiveness was evaluated. Forestry BMP effectiveness studies are often site or region specific. Therefore, BMP research in the United States was divided into three regions: northern, southern, and western. Thirty research studies were reviewed for the southern region with the majority being conducted in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain physiographic regions. The western region had thirty-one studies, most of which were in the Pacific Border physiographic region. The northern region had twenty studies primarily in the northeastern states. Forestry BMP effectiveness research generally focused on forest water quality from timber harvesting, site preparation, forest road construction and maintenance, stream crossings, and other categories of forest operations. The literature indicates that forestry BMPs protect water quality when constructed correctly and in adequate numbers. Forestry BMP effectiveness studies allow state forestry BMP programs to evaluate progress in reducing non-point source pollution and achieving water quality goals established under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Furthermore, states have used research findings to change BMPs and improve their guidelines. Although forestry BMPs have been proven to protect water quality, they are still being refined to enhance their performance.”



Cristan, R., W.M. Austa, M.C. Bolding, S.M. Barrett, J.F. Munsell, and E. Schilling. 2016. Effectiveness of forestry best management practices in the United States: Literature review. Forest Ecology and Management 360:133–151.