Technical Bulletins & Special Reports

Technical Bulletin No. 0820: Forestry Operations and Water Quality in the Northeastern States: Overview of Impacts and Assessment of State Implementation of Nonpoint Source Progra

This report assesses silvicultural nonpoint source (NPS) pollution control programs for the twelve northeastern states (Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine). It relies on existing information, supplemented by interviews with state program managers and scientists. This report is current as of year-end 1997. Our principal findings are that:

In their state assessments (“319 reports”) the states, while recognizing data limitations, generally rank silvicultural sources as modest or insignificant compared to other nonpoint sources. Several state assessments do not mention silvicultural sources of pollution at all.

Water quality monitoring, especially in headwater streams, is limited, so that the 319 reports have little field information to rely on. The low level of monitoring seems to reflect a shared impression that logging effects on water quality are currently minor, localized, and generally transitory. NPS monitoring efforts are being directed to more significant problems.

Important coldwater fisheries and spawning areas are found in headwater streams across this region. Even ephemeral streams may be important to the ecology of upstream waters, and they can provide channels for sediment to reach perennial streams.

Estimates of acres affected by logging and silvicultural activities were prepared in only a few states. Of the region’s 80 million acres of commercial forest, at most only about 2% per year, or 1.6 million acres, are affected by almost 40,000 individual logging operations. Depending on the soils and logging methods used, anywhere from 10% to 40% of this acreage would actually be subject to significant disturbance of mineral soil or forest floor.