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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Innovative State Programs South Carolina

South Carolina Forestry BMP Compliance Program:
Proactive Strategy Raises BMP Compliance Rate


Daryl Jones
South Carolina Forestry Commission
djones@ forestry.state.sc.us

In South Carolina, as well as in most other states with large tracts of forested land where timber is harvested, nonpoint source runoff due to the lack of proper practices can be a threat to water quality. To address this situation, the South Carolina Forestry Commission (SCFC) adopted a set of silvicultural best management practices (BMPs) and published South Carolina's Best Management Practices for Forestry in 1994. To ensure compliance with the BMPs, the Commission focuses on a proactive strategy for preventing nonpoint source pollution, using a multipronged approach.

One component of the program provides voluntary courtesy BMP exams to forest landowners, foresters, and forestry operators. Specially trained Forestry BMP Specialists, located in each of the SCFC's three regions, conduct these exams. About 500 harvesting operations were evaluated during fiscal year 2000. Ongoing forestry operations are located through regular flights over high-priority watersheds, through voluntary notification, and through response to complaints. Courtesy BMP exams are then offered to the landowner, forester, and logging contractor. Based on the exam results, site-specific recommendations regarding BMP implementation are provided. Recommendations may include streamside management zones, forest road construction, stream crossing design and location, harvesting systems, and site preparation techniques. Where damage has already occurred, recommendations for mitigating the damage are offered.

After the harvesting operation is completed, a final on-site inspection is conducted to determine whether the appropriate BMPs were implemented. BMP compliance is significantly higher—98 percent according to a 1999 statistical survey—on sites where a courtesy BMP exam has been conducted. A monthly summary report of completed courtesy BMP exams is provided to the state water quality agency and to timber buyers. The report identifies loggers who failed to implement the appropriate water quality BMPs. Failure to implement BMPs might negatively influence a forest industry company's decision to purchase forest products and services from the logger. The threat of being on "the list" has proven to be a real incentive to loggers to implement appropriate BMPs. In addition, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the state's water quality agency, may initiate enforcement action based on the referral.

Another component of the program is education. Forestry BMP Specialists conduct BMP training throughout the state. Educational programs are tailored to the unique operating conditions in each physiographic region. More than 1,800 loggers, landowners, foresters, and forestry operators have attended the Timber Operating Professional (TOP) Logger course since its inception in 1995. The program is produced in cooperation with the South Carolina Forestry Association. In addition, short courses on site preparation, forest road construction, and other topics are offered annually. BMP educational presentations are given throughout the year to forest landowner associations, forestry clubs, civic groups, environmental groups, and other interested parties.

This innovative program has proven to be very effective in increasing the BMP compliance rate statewide. Surveys conducted over the past 10 years show that a statistically valid increase in forestry-related BMP compliance on harvesting sites has occurred. In fact, the compliance rate rose from 84.5 percent in 1989 to 91.5 percent in 1999. Compliance with site preparation BMPs was 86.4 percent in 1996 and rose to 98 percent in the second evaluation, completed in the spring of 1999.

BMP compliance monitoring continues. During FY 2000, the SCFC initiated an additional monitoring cycle of harvesting and site preparation BMP compliance, consisting of (1) initial site location and harvest monitoring and (2) the initial site preparation compliance evaluation.

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