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ASAE Conference Proceeding

This is not a peer-reviewed article.

USABMP.NET - National Website for Forestry Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Information

B. D. Jackson

Pp. 249-253 in Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Environmental Regulations II, Conference Proceedings, 8-12 November 2003 (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA), ed. Ali Saleh. ,8 November 2003 . ASAE Pub #701P1503

Abstract

The webpage on forestry water quality and best management practices (BMPs) at www.usabmp.net/ was established to provide a convenient national, regional, state, and local online service readily accessible for learning about educational and training opportunities, relevant legislation and regulations, water quality and BMP materials, and people and organizations to contact for help. The site consisted of three major components: general information, training and educational opportunities, and measures of effectiveness. In a cooperative effort among the National Council on Air and Stream Initiative (NCASI), National Association of State Foresters (NASF), American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), Society of American Foresters (SAF) and the University of Georgia (UGA), this webpage is being expanded to create a one-stop shopping site for information about forestry BMPs. A key component of the revised site is the inclusion of national and regional level research that has been conducted on BMP effectiveness. Other additions include details about monitoring projects, news and current events, funding opportunities, focus on agencies and organizations, upcoming meetings, and other topics as needed.

KEYWORDS. BMPs, Forest practices, Internet, Water quality, Webpage.

Introduction

The webpage entitled “Water Quality and BMPs for Loggers” at www.usabmp.net/ was established in 1998. It resides on the Southern Regional Extension Foresters Linux Server on the University of Georgia (UGA) campus in Athens, Georgia. Partial funding for development of the site came through a one-year grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The concept was that, since maintenance of water quality standards is a major consideration in many timber harvesting operations, an internet-based, readily accessible national clearinghouse of state and federal information and guidance about the forestry water quality environment would be a valuable resource for logging and other forestry professionals to have at their disposal.

As was stated on the home page, “…we're here for loggers especially as you address the water quality aspects of your business.  Wherever you live, we're here to provide you with a convenient national, regional, and local online service where you can have ready access to learning of your educational and training opportunities, relevant legislation and regulations, water quality and best management practices materials and people and organizations to contact for more help.“ While the logger should have benefit personally, this site was also designed to portray the breadth of the water quality issue as it evolves and demonstrate the effectiveness of programs designed to maintain and even improve water quality.

Generally, internet sites are becoming a commonly used resource to acquire and maintain up-to-date technical information. The www.usabmp.net/ site is a superior address that provides an excellent skeleton for displaying information about forestry BMPs in the United States. The National Council on Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) Forest Watershed Task Group, staffed by Dr. George Ice of NCASI, has led the way to initiate support for further development of this web site. A partnership has been formed with other key forestry organizations interested

in promoting forestry BMPs and forest practices programs. These include the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), Society of American Foresters (SAF), the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the University of Georgia (UGA).

History Of The Site

Originally, three major components were visualized for the webpage: general information, training and educational opportunities, and measures of effectiveness. The general information section included, among other things, state and federal contacts and links for people, programs, regulations, legislation, written materials and other related topics. Due to lack of funding over time, the other two sections have never been expanded to include much useful information. Most of the limited resources that were available went into switching to a database internal structure away from simple html scripting plus general maintenance and updating such as correcting defunct or altered web addresses nested in the webpage.

Key individuals have recognized that the www.usabmp.net webpage has the potential to become the basis for an expanded and more usable site dedicated the overall topic of forestry water quality. It already enjoys name recognition and is linked to and from many other related websites nationally. Expansion will broadened the utility beyond the logger audience and will prove beneficial to anyone concerned with water quality. Specially, the expansion concept was to build the “training opportunities” and “measures of effectiveness” sections and add many other components. The additions include details about monitoring projects, news and current events, funding opportunities, focus on agencies and other contacts, meetings, and others topics.

Technical Background

The www.usabmp.net webpage was started when the creation tools and the internal components of webpages were limited mostly to writing html code. However, a modern web site is no longer just a web server to html documents. It also includes a way of storing data and querying a database of documents and a way of processing the requests from the user and creates documents with the appropriate information. Recognizing the need to move from a static to a dynamic webpage, we have switched to an internal database structure..

During the past two years, growing concern has been about how to create and test hypertext (webpage) information with a navigation structure that allows easy access to that information as the body of hypertext expands and branches into new subject areas. Potential problems include, content management and control, editorial review, and navigation and search system integration. These and other issues create substantial setbacks to overall system expansion. By implementing a content management system (CMS) these and other issues are alleviated. A CMS allows the entire publishing process from author contribution, peer review, and final publishing, to be integrated into a single web-based system.

We determined that an existing software, Zope (http://www.zope.com), can effectively serve as a foundation to meet the multiple objectives of the ever-expanding needs of a viable water quality webpage. Zope is a total software system: an application server, web server, and content manager. It is a complete and self-contained solution that includes a scalable object database, web services architecture, and powerful programming capabilities. These open-source tools can be modified and built upon to create a powerful system. Zope is free and is used by the USDA, Navy and other federal, state and private organizations.

Procedure

In the beginning, the existing www.usabmp.net webpage will remain online while we do the re-design on a new test site with an unpublished URL. This test site will be accessible by designated NCASI representatives and others so they can constantly review and comment on progress being made in content and style.

Using the Zope software, we will create the database structure, data input forms, keywords, search engine, search parameters, and output records that will be part of the test web page. The effort basically involves the creation of the CMS. Most of this work will be the task of the Web Administrator, completed under the guidance of the Principal Investigator. The General Information section on the existing page will be augmented on the test site with several other components listed as follows:

This effort again can be monitored and guided by NCASI representatives.

If desired, NCASI representatives and others can be given direct edit and content creation control over the webpage. This is called functional control. This process will involve determining the Super Users, Users, and the Public who will have varying degrees of access to the test web site. We will consult NCASI in setting up editorial protocol and incorporate this protocol into the webpage. The various categories of users will be assigned user Ids and passwords plus be given instructions on how to modify the page and provide content themselves. The Web Administrator will collaborate with the Principal Investigator on these tasks.

Super users are a selected few individuals that will have access to all parts of the webpage. They can add, delete, and modify any part of the webpage. Under them are Users who have editing or control privileges limited to geographic area, subject matter, or some other restriction. The final level of control belongs to the Public who can submit information, suggest modifications to Users and/or Super Users. They have no direct edit control. Functionality mostly concerns the user-friendliness of the webpage. E-mail reminders, notification of expiration dates, and the presentation of graphical data are examples of this.

New Content

We will continue to expand the General Information section on the existing web page and mirror that information on the test site. Such data entry will constitute the bulk of the work and will be accomplished primarily by the Student Worker. We will attempt to periodically contact Users about new citations that should be added to the webpage. Also, we will constantly track and change, where necessary, the links from our page and add new ones as needed. Debugging, long-term modifications to the webpage, and insuring compatibility with other web pages will be a constant process for the page. This will be done by the Program Assistant and Student Worker. search engines.

Finally, as the test site takes final form and the content of the various components are completed, the web page will be given a more appropriate title to reflect content and then be published as the new replacement www.usabmp.net page. The temporary site will be eliminated. The new page will be linked to all major search engines and advertised nationally. We will continue to maintain, improve and expand the webpage.

Conclusion

The www.usabmp.net General Information sectionabout state BMPs and BMP programs is relatively complete. Other sections, dealing with issues like training and education and BMP effectiveness have not been developed. BMP compliance rates have not identified. The recent BMP symposium held in Atlanta Georgia provided a summary of Eastern forestry BMPs and a review of Western forestry programs for that meeting provide an excellent beginning point for this effort.

Forest nonpoint source control programs in the West are largely based on forest practice rules or voluntary Best Management Practices (BMPs) with riparian management regulations. These programs and regulations continue to undergo intensive scrutiny. Still, the questions are the same for these programs as for states that base nonpoint source control on voluntary BMPs. Are the rules or BMPs being applied, and are they effective in controlling nonpoint source pollution? The level of debate about forestry in the West has resulted in detailed monitoring and research to answer these questions. The days of assuming levels of compliance based on the percent of operations with enforcement actions are being replaced by statistically valid and reproducible monitoring of compliance levels. BMP effectiveness is being assessed using both qualitative and quantitative methods. This can involve field assessments, process-based research, and control watershed studies. Some meager trend monitoring is also beginning. It is likely that effectiveness testing will continue to be a priority and consume the majority of assessment resources for this region.

In the South the first questions were about BMP implementation levels - were operators and landowners applying BMPs? In the West, the questions were more about whether BMPs were effective in controlling NPS impacts. It is unlikely that any single state can support all the assessment studies needed to evaluate the effectiveness of state BMPs and implementation rates. Instead, the aggregate regional results must be used. BMP implementation data can be especially useful in targeting specific practices that are under-applied.

One of the key values of the redeveloped www.usabmp.net website would be a display at a national and regional level of research that has been conducted on BMP effectiveness. Information developed for the lower coastal plain in one state will have relevance in another state. We anticipate that brief descriptions of each of these studies would be developed and links to additional websites with information would be provided. Searches could be conducted on key information needs about roads, harvesting, site preparation, erosion, temperature, state, or other key terms. This synthesis would allow NASF and others to highlight what we know and what gaps require additional research. A map of state BMP compliance assessments would also be developed.

With the webpage designed to include participation by many contributors it will stay current and relevant. As more users seek information from the webpage it can constantly be updated and expanded to meet the growing information needs for those concerned with forestry water quality and BMPs.

REFERENCES

Ice, George, Liz Dent, Josh Robben, Pete Cafferata, Jeff Light, Brian Sugden, and Terry Cundy. 2003. Programs assessing implementation and effectiveness of state forest practice rules and BMPs in the West. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution Focus (in press).

Jackson, Ben. 1998. Water quality and BMPs for loggers. www.usabmp.net. Webpage.