Water Resources Program

Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS)

The Water Resources Program

The Water Resources Program, administered by Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS), promotes the value of wetlands and supports their protection during forest operations through recommended best management practices (BMPs).

The Water Resources Program at TFS provides technical assistance to landowners by working with forest operations to identify BMPs that could be implemented into their forest operation.  In addition, the Water Resources Program offers a free publication of the Texas Forestry Best Management Practices Handbook on their website as well as education to landowners, loggers, and foresters about water quality threats.

Forestry Stewardship and Best Management Practices

Timber harvest and regeneration has potential to generate non-point source pollution and damage wetlands if done improperly. Forestry BMPs are not required by law; they are voluntarily implemented practices employed as a part of forest stewardship.  BMPs and good forest stewardship are commonly found in Texas forest operations.  A Texas A&M Forest Service 2011 study of implementation of BMPs in Texas forest operations, found that overall, 94% of 150 randomly selected operation sites (public-owned, commercial-owned, industrial-owned, and family-owned sites) employed BMPs recommended by Texas Forest Service.

Forested Wetlands, BMPs, and Clean Water Act Jurisdiction Silviculture Exemption

Of special concern are BMPs for forested wetlands, special environmentally sensitive areas. Impact to forested wetlands and waters of the US that are under the jurisdiction of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) are regulated by the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE).

Most impacts to jurisdictional wetlands and waters of the US require a permit from the USACE. However, silvicultural operation is often exempt from this requirement as long as provisions are made for protecting the water quality and wetland characteristics.

The following are conditions an operation must have to be exempted from CWA jurisdiction (33 CFR 323.4):

  • The activity is conducted by an established on-going silviculture operation
  • The activity causing the impact is part of normal silvicultural operation
  • The activity is not part of an activity whose purpose is to convert an area of the waters of the United States into a use to which it was not previously subject, impairing or reducing water flow (conversion of wetland)
  • Forest roads are constructed according to 15 Mandatory Road BMPs and impact to waters is avoided where possible and minimized to the maximum extent practical (BMPs are listed on pages 82 and 83 of the Texas Forestry Best Management Practices Handbook)
  • Discharge and fill of the waters of the US does not contain toxic pollutants listed under 307 of the Clean Water Act (40 CFR 401.15)

The Texas Forestry Best Management Practices Handbook contains a specific discussion of forested wetlands and Waters of the US (Section 3, page 70) as well as a list of the 15 mandatory road BMPs required for silviculture exemption(pages 82-3).

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