South Carolina Forestry Commission
Best Management Practices

BMP Graphic

Timber Harvesting

Water Quality
BMPs : Planning, Execution, Follow-up
Avoid

On-Site Impacts (Non-Water Quality)
BMPs : Planning, Execution, Follow-up

Skid Trails

Rutting

An effort has been made to italicize technical words or phrases and clearly define them in the glossary.

Executing an environmentally responsible and economically efficient timber harvest operation, especially one near sensitive sites, requires a thorough understanding of the land, the trees, the capabilities of the logger and logging equipment, and the markets for timber products. Landowners are encouraged to seek the advice of a licensed forester or the South Carolina Forestry Commission to plan and execute timber harvests carefully. Timber harvesting contracts should specify compliance with BMPs.

Harvesting trees is not just the end of the growing cycle of a forest; it is the start of the next generation. Many commercial tree species need exposed mineral soil and the direct sunlight of an open area for their seeds to germinate and successfully become established. Harvesting operations usually provide both of these conditions. To minimize water quality impacts of harvesting, the landowner or his agent should carefully consider road location, stream crossings, and the method of regeneration before logging begins.

It is necessary to protect sensitive areas, plan for regeneration, and consider the areas beyond the actual harvest site if negative environmental impacts are to be avoided. For instance, bottomland hardwood sites, Carolina Bays, and other swamps differ from upland forest types in that their soils are wet for most, if not all, of the year. They are frequently connected directly to an aquatic system; they often have overland water flow from nearby stream flooding; and they may accumulate sediments, nutrients, and pollutants from upstream erosion and runoff. These areas may require special harvesting equipment and/or special harvesting techniques.

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Water Quality

The primary water quality impact associated with timber harvesting is the degradation of aquatic habitat quality due to increased sediment inputs and elevated water temperatures. The following BMPs are designed to minimize harvesting impacts on water quality.

BMPs

Planning

Execution

Follow-up

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Avoid

* Braided stream systems typically have multiple, interconnected channels and a high water table for much of the year. Logging under these conditions often requires the use of specialized logging equipment. BMPs concerning stream crossings are not always applicable when crossing braided streams due to their unique characteristics. Increased turbidity downstream from a logging operation should not be of a duration or magnitude to impair the beneficial uses of the water body. Upon completion of the logging operation, block any channels that were created by skidding logs across the terrain in braided stream systems.

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On-Site Impacts (Non-Water Quality)

Harvesting sites with stable, non-erosive soils that are not closely associated with streams has little potential to impact water quality. However, logging during wet conditions can cause exposure of mineral soil and rutting which may result in erosion, soil compaction, or puddling. Such soil disturbance may cause a loss in site productivity. These impacts can often be reduced with site preparation techniques. Because rutting may impact site productivity on certain sites, landowners should consider logging under drier conditions if they do not wish to bear the expense of site preparation or skid road rehabilitation.

Rapid reforestation is an effective means of improving the visual impact of harvest operations. Regeneration techniques such as single-tree selection, patch clearcuts, or shelterwood harvests can be used to minimize visual impact. These systems, however, may be less efficient than clearcutting for regenerating the site, and they require additional logging entries which can further impact site productivity.

Two ways to improve the initial visual impact of a clearcutting operation are:

  1. Leave a strip of trees along well-traveled highways;
  2. Limit the size of the area to be harvested at any one time. (This is probably the most effective way to reduce negative visual impact.)

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BMPs

Planning

Execution

Follow-up

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Skid Trails

To reduce harvesting impacts on sites that will not be treated with mechanical site preparation:

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Rutting

During dry conditions, rutting occurs mostly in isolated, moist areas, or on primary skid trails where repeated skidder traffic gradually compacts the soil. Usually these ruts are not a significant concern. However, when certain soils are moist or wet, rutting can be a significant problem, especially if natural regeneration methods are planned. Rutting is a highly visible impact of logging, but the effects of rutting on site productivity are poorly understood over the wide range of soil types in South Carolina.

Because of the potential impacts on certain soils, precautions should be taken during planning and conducting timber harvesting to minimize depth of rutting and the amount of area with ruts. *

* See glossary for definitions of rutting and excessive rutting.

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Contents
Streamside Management Zones / Forest Road Construction / Stream Crossings / Site Preparation / Reforestation / Prescribed Burning / Pesticides / Fertilization / Minor Drainage / Endangered Species Act / Additional Management Options: Wildlife Management / Glossary

Forest Management/ Reference Resources / Environmental Forestry/ Braided Stream Systems