Forestry: Protecting Water Quality with Forestry Best Management Practices

Forestry: Protecting Water Quality with Forestry Best Management Practices

The Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC) Forestry Program uses technical assistance and cost-sharing to help Watershed loggers install water quality protection measures called Best Management Practices (BMPs) on timber harvests in the NYC Watershed. There’s plentiful research documenting the effectiveness of forestry BMPs in protecting water quality across the eastern US. But how effective are the WAC’s efforts to help loggers use BMPs? In 2019, researchers from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) took up the challenge of evaluating the effectiveness of the WAC’s Forestry BMP Program.

This research by SUNY ESF sought to evaluate the WAC’s Forestry BMP Program by comparing harvests that did participate (WAC) with harvests that did not (NonWAC). The WAC and NonWAC harvests were compared by assessing the implementation rates of different BMPs. Comparing the WAC to NonWAC groups gives us a direct look at how involvement with WAC impacts the rate of forestry BMP implementation. A total of 45 Watershed harvests were visited as part of the study, 23 WAC and 22 NonWAC.

The researchers found significantly better BMP implementation on the WAC versus NonWAC harvests when it came to protecting water quality on skid trails and stream crossings. In fact, the scoring of water diversion devices on the WAC harvests doubled that of the NonWAC harvests. This means loggers working with the WAC used forestry BMPs more frequently to protect water quality than loggers who don’t participate.

The good news doesn’t stop with harvests evaluated for this 2019 study. The researchers were able to compare their 2019 data with the results of similar research conducted in 2002 and 2011 that evaluated the WAC’s Forestry BMP Program. They also found that all categories of BMP implementation demonstrated increasing scores over the past 18 years. These means that not only is the WAC’s Forestry BMP Program key in protecting water quality on harvests now. It’s getting better at protecting water quality over time!

Read the 2019 Annual Report here.