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Water Quality and Forestry Best Management Practices

It is through the wise management of our lands that we are able to protect and cleanse the water we need.

Best Management Practices

Forested lands are an important natural resource in Mississippi. They help protect and cleanse the water we need for drinking, residential use, irrigation, and industry. 

According to the Southern Forest Resource Assessment (USDA Forest Service 2002), forested watersheds consistently yield lower sediment and nutrient contributions to surface waters and improve biological conditions. It is through the wise management of these lands that a multitude of benefits is generated.

The Federal Clean Water Act of 1987 requires proper steps to be taken to prevent pollution to sources of drinking water and protect water quality. When conducting forestry operations, using Mississippi’s Best Management Practices (BMPs) satisfies the requirements of the Clean Water Act. BMPs are a group of voluntary practices used to reduce water pollution.

Mississippi State Regulations Governing BMPs and Timber Practices

State Law 95-15-14 …

  • Obstructing waterways; felling trees in excess of six inches in diameter into running stream. It shall be unlawful and a misdemeanor for any person, firm, corporation, association or organization to push, fell or cut trees, in excess of six (6) inches in diameter, into a running stream, or deposit or leave in a running stream, trees, in excess of six (6) inches in diameter, logs in excess of six (6) inches in diameter or treetops, without removing the same immediately, in such cases where such will materially impede the flow of or navigation upon such running stream.
  • Any violation of this section shall be punishable by a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars ($25.00) and not more than two hundred dollars ($200.00).

Best Management Practices Handbook

The handbook (Fourth Edition, September 2008), which covers best management practices for forestry in Mississippi, includes BMPs in the following categories for uplands and wetlands:

  • Streamside Management Zones
  • Skid Trails and Haul Roads
  • Forest Harvesting
  • Site Preparation
  • Tree Planting
  • Artificial Revegetation of Disturbed Forest Sites

MFC’s Role in Water Quality

The Mississippi Forestry Commission’s role in water quality is to monitor the use of best management practices. Findings are reported to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). It is estimated that forest activity occurs on nearly 850,000 acres annually in Mississippi.

Best Management Practice Monitoring

The MFC conducts a statewide monitoring survey and publishes a report every three years. The purpose of BMP monitoring is to evaluate the use of voluntary BMPs by the forestry community. By monitoring silvicultural activities, the overall integrity of water quality will improve as well as the restoration and protection of all watersheds.

The Mississippi Forestry Commission works with landowners, forest industry, loggers, and others to help ensure that forestry practices are in compliance with the Water Quality Act and state laws.

2019 BMP Implementation Survey

Federally Mandated BMPs for Roads in Wetlands

  1. Permanent roads, temporary access roads, and skid trails in waters of the U.S. shall be held to the minimum feasible number, width, and total length consistent with the purpose of specific silvicultural operations and local topographic and climatic conditions. 

  2. All roads, temporary or permanent, shall be located sufficiently far from streams or other water bodies (except portions of such roads that must cross water bodies) to minimize the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. 

  3. The road fill shall be bridged, culvert, or otherwise designed to prevent the restriction of expected flood flows. 

  4. The fill shall be properly stabilized and maintained to prevent erosion during and following construction. 

  5. Discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. to construct a road fill shall be made in a manner that minimizes the encroachment of trucks, tractors, bulldozers, or other heavy equipment within waters of the U.S. (including adjacent wetlands) that lie outside the lateral boundaries of the fill itself. 

  6. In designing, constructing, and maintaining roads, vegetative disturbance in the waters of the U.S. shall be kept to a minimum. 

  7. The design, construction, and maintenance of the road crossing shall not disrupt the migration or other movement of those species of aquatic life inhabiting the water body. 

  8. Borrow material shall be taken from upland sources whenever feasible. 

  9. The discharge shall not take, or jeopardize the continued existence of, a threatened or endangered species as defined under the Endangered Species Act, or adversely modify or destroy the critical habitat of such species. 

  10. Discharges into breeding and nesting areas for migratory waterfowl, spawning areas, and wetlands shall be avoided if practical alternatives exist. 

  11. The discharge shall not be located in the proximity of a public water supply intake. 

  12. The discharge shall not occur in areas of concentrated shellfish population. 

  13. The discharge shall not occur in a component of the National Wild and Scenic River System. 

  14. The discharge of material shall consist of suitable material free from toxic pollutants in toxic amounts. 

  15. All temporary fills shall be removed in their entirety and the area restored to its original elevation.

More Information

For more information about Water Quality and Best Management Practices, contact:

Bill Kitchings
Forest Stewardship Coordinator and Water Quality Forester
bkitchings@mfc.ms.gov