Journal Articles

Forestry BMP implementation affects potential soil erosion in the southeastern U.S.

June 01, 2022

Forestry Resources Association Technical Release 22-R-13
BMP Series: Article 2 out of 3

Brent S. Hawks, W. Michael Aust, M. Chad Bolding, Scott M. Barrett, and Erik B. Schilling (NCASI)

Forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs) are designed to minimize forest harvesting effects on water quality by decreasing erosion and potential stream sedimentation. State forestry agencies in the southeastern U.S. have designed and developed BMP guidelines and audit procedures to facilitate sustainable harvesting operations. State forestry agencies use BMP audit results to identify potential problem areas and subsequently modify and improve the effectiveness of their BMP programs. BMPs provide protection for water quality when implemented properly; however, few studies have documented differences between state BMP programs and related impacts on potential soil erosion. The Potential Effects of Forestry Best Management Practices and Implementation Rates on Soil and Water Resources in the Southeastern United States study was designed to examine the consistency of BMPs implementation across the Southeast, given program variation, and to evaluate current BMP effectiveness for minimizing soil erosion. We collected the forestry BMP audit questionnaires from 13 Southeastern states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Field surveys were then conducted on 108 recently clearcut harvest sites across the Southeast. On each site, we determined BMP implementation rates (%) using all state audit questionnaires and estimated erosion (tons ac-1 yr-1) using the USLE- Forest Model on skid trails, forest roads, stream crossings, decks/landings, and minimally disturbed harvest areas.

This research received financial and logistical support from the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. (NCASI), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, the Virginia Tech Forest Operations and Business Research Cooperative, and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture McIntire Stennis project 7001490. A more comprehensive manuscript that presents BMP implementation rates by physiographic region and state audit questionnaire is “In Press” with the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation and will be available in the 2022 September/October issue. A companion manuscript examining the relationship between BMP implementation and erosion in the southeast is published in the Journal of Environmental Management ( The complete study with detailed methods and analysis can be found at