University of Maryland Extension

Best Management Practices

Riparian bufferThis page provides specific information on forest best management practices, streamside management zones, and critical area timber harvest guidelines. When forest landowners harvest forest products, certain practices, commonly known as forest best management practices (BMPs), must be implemented to protect water quality. Proper planning is essential to making this happen, and involving a professional forester in any timber harvest is recommended. Depending on your situation, the following plans may be required:

Forest Best Management Practices (BMPs).  The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have developed the Standard Sediment and Erosion Control Forest Harvest Plan (known as the Standard Plan), to ensure forest best management practices are implemented. The Standard Plan lists the general sediment control requirements for each harvest and may be obtained at any Soil Conservation District office. The State of Maryland offers each county the ability to enforce the minimum requirements of these laws and regulations within its own county system. When a harvest is planned on private property, owners must go to the local Soil Conservation District office to obtain the necessary information to develop the Standard Plan and to have it approved.

Streamside Management Zones (SMZs) (bottom half of page). The Standard Plan requires that uncut buffer zones, called SMZs, be maintained on all sides of perennial or intermittent streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, bogs or marshes. The width of the buffer is dependent upon the slope of the land adjacent to the watercourse. The Standard Plan does allow limited harvesting within the buffer provided that a "Buffer Management Plan" is prepared by a licensed forester.

Critical Area Timber Harvest Guidelines. These provide criteria under which timber harvests in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area may be conducted, and provide for review and approval of all plans. Commercial timber harvests of at least one acre that occur in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area (1,000 feet inland from mean high tide of all tidal waters) are subject to the guidelines. The guidelines describe the process by which Timber Harvest Plans will be prepared and reviewed. Of primary concern is their high impact on the different types of Habitat Protection Areas:

  1. the 100' or expanded buffer;
  2. non-tidal wetlands;
  3. threatened & endangered species and species in need of conservation;
  4. plant and wildlife habitat
  5. anadromous fish propagation waters

Timber Harvest Plans are prepared by DNR foresters or consultant foresters with input from appropriate agencies and are presented to the county District Forestry Boards for approval.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Maryland's Best Management Practices for Forest Harvest Operations. The implementation of BMPs is the primary means of non-point source pollution control for forest harvest activities in Maryland. This study, funded by a Clean Water Act Section 319(h) Competitive Grant, is an attempt to determine whether Maryland's Best Management Practices for Forest Harvest Operations are effective in protecting water quality. The study is being conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Forest Service in cooperation with other agencies of the DNR and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Other Forest Watershed Programs. This page from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service includes detailed information about other forest watershed programs.

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