by Steve Kallesser, Division chair

The forestry and wetlands Best Management Practices Manual (last revised 1995) was written to protect water quality. Since consideration must be given to threatened and endangered species (item #10 on the checklist on page VII), the question has arisen: should any revised BMP manual address wildlife and larger ecological issues directly, or indirectly through a forester’s site-specific considerations for T&E species? To see how others handled this question, we turned to the Forest Biomass Retention and Harvesting Guidelines for the Southeast, written by the Forest Guild Southeast Biomass Working Group (http://www.forestguild.org/publications/research/2012/FG_Biomass_Guidelines_SE.pdf).

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A retained cavity tree in a managed forest in Sussex County. (photo by Steve Kallesser)

Those guidelines differed from the 1995 BMP manual in four areas. The first is protections for rare (S1 or S2) forest cover types. The Forest Guild guidelines recommending avoiding harvesting unless necessary to perpetuate the rare forest cover type. It is noted that Atlantic White Cedar has a separate Best Management Practices manual, last updated in 2000 (https://njforests.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AWC_BMP.pdf) that should be deferred to for that forest cover type.  Given that very few forest cover types (not narrowly-defined forest type associations) in New Jersey are considered to be rare, this seems to have limited applicability.

The second is the retention of downed woody material (DWM). This is particular to those guidelines as they were written for forest biomass (typically whole-tree) harvests. Their guidelines called for retention of at least 3 tons/acre of downed woody material of varying sizes in Upland hardwood, Mixed pine-hardwood, and Bottomland hardwood stands, and at least 1 ton/acre of the same in Pine stands. For help visualizing DWM quantities, a link to the Natural Fuels Photo Series was given (depts.washington.edu/nwfire/dps/). These guidelines are generally recommended but may vary from property to property based on specific species management goals and objectives.

The third is the retention of snags, cavity trees, and den trees. At least 11 such trees/acre (>4”DBH) are recommended for Upland hardwoods and Mixed pine-hardwoods. At least 6 such trees/acre are recommended for Bottomland hardwoods, and at least 5 for Pine stands.  Again, such guidelines could be generally recommended, but may vary from property to property based on specific species management goals and objectives.

The fourth are landscape-scale issues. The Forest Guild guidelines focus primarily on assuring that forest biomass harvesting on one part of a property does not interfere with a landowner’s goals on that or another area of their property. The 1995 BMP manual does not address landscape-scale issues directly, as intensive management was then (and is now) rare. For the purposes of educating landowners, loggers, and the general public, it could be appropriate to include some information on connectivity between watersheds as part of an updated manual.

Without cluttering up what is currently an easily read and understood manual, one solution would be to place such information in the introductory sections of the manual. This could be a similar section to the Wetlands section that describes the function and other benefits of wetlands. As such, it would spell out concern for wildlife and broader ecological goals instead of leaving the reader to infer. This could also include information and discussion on forest structure and diversification of age classes, and available sources of information from state and federal fish and wildlife and conservation agencies. The other would be to amend Section V Timber Harvesting #7 to include retention of downed woody material during whole-tree harvesting.