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Water quality issues facing the forest products industry: Current research focus and future research needs

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Watershed ManWatershed Management to Meet Water Quality Standards and TMDLS (Total Maximum Daily Load) Proceedings of the 10-14 March 2007, San Antonio, Texas  701P0207.(doi:10.13031/2013.22456)
Authors:   Erik Brian Schilling, George Ice, Ben Wigley, Masato Miwa, Ali Saleh
Keywords:   Agriculture Policy Environmental eXtender model, forestry best management practices, forest management and water quality, harvesting, herbicides, nutrients, sediment, silviculture

Watersheds dominated by managed forests often produce high quality water. This results from the forest products industry and others utilizing and promoting sustainable forest management regimes that include adherence to state forestry best management practices (BMPs). Despite high rates of BMP compliance and implementation reported for managed forests throughout the US, these forests are often listed as sources of sediment and nutrient impairment for some Section 303(d) listed stream segments. As a result, the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) and member companies have been actively addressing research needs in light of total maximum daily load regulations. To effectively address these concerns, NCASI has supported several watershed research projects in the South and West, as well as modeling efforts, to quantify forest management contributions to stream water impairment. Results of these studies overwhelmingly indicate that properly installed and maintained BMPs effectively reduce sediment and nutrient impacts, as well as maintain stream water temperatures and dissolved oxygen levels. Furthermore, observed variations from the pre-treatment 'water quality norm' that have resulted from management prescriptions are often biologically insignificant and short-lived. While successes gained through BMP implementation cannot be understated, several challenges continue to face the forest products industry. These challenges include continued refinement of performance measures used to assess BMP effectiveness, ensuring BMP prescriptions remain economically sustainable and assessing impacts of both disturbance events and legacy conditions on BMP performance. NCASI research is actively addressing these challenges, particularly regarding forest road contributions to stream water impairment and streamside management zone influences on water quality maintenance.

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