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BMPs of Timber Harvesting

If you are considering a timber harvest on your property, you need to be aware of the pre-planning that is needed. A lot of questions need to be answered:

  • Which trees will be cut?
  • How much will I be compensated?
  • When will I receive the money?
  • Who will assume liability if there is an accident?
  • How will soil erosion be controlled?

All of these issues and more should be covered in a timber sale contract. Private consulting foresters are commonly employed to help landowners develop sale contracts that optimize profits and limit landowner liability.

Soil erosion control to protect water quality is one piece of the planning puzzle that is frequently overlooked by landowners and loggers. A Timber Harvest Plan for Erosion Control (often referred to as a THP) is a voluntary plan that can be submitted to the local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in the county where the logging will take place. The plan identifies the names of the landowner, the logging company, and the consulting forester, and provides a list of the BMPs that are planned for installation on the property.

A Timber Harvest Plan also should include a legible map (typically a USGS topographic map or aerial photograph) that identifies the property boundaries, the proposed log deck location, haul roads, skid trails and streams. A map creates a clear diagram of the logging project and helps to eliminate confusion between the landowner and logger as to how the property will be affected.

Once the Timber Harvest Plan is completed, the landowner, logger, and forester should review the plan to make sure they are all in agreement as to which BMPs will be utilized to protect water quality. Once all parties are in agreement, the plan is signed by all parties and submitted to the local SWCD. The SWCD will review the Timber Harvest Plan, do a site review if needed, and approve or disapprove the plan. During the review process, the SWCD may offer suggestions on ways to improve the plan.

When approved, a Timber Harvest Plan can provide important legal protections for the parties who have signed it. In a private civil action for nuisances involving forestry pollution, it is an affirmative defense if the person owning, operating, or otherwise responsible for silvicultural operations is operating under and in substantial compliance with an approved Timber Harvest Plan.

How to File a Complaint Involving Forestry Pollution

Any person who wishes to make a complaint regarding nuisances involving forestry pollution may do so orally or by submitting a written complaint to the ODNR Division of Forestry or the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in the county where the logging activity is taking place. All complaints should include the following information:

  1. Location and description of the property and/or waters of the state allegedly being damaged;
  2. The nature and extent of the damage;
  3. The alleged source of pollution;
  4. Any efforts made to obtain voluntary cooperation to eliminate the problem.

When the Division of Forestry or SWCD receives a complaint or discovers a potential violation of the Forestry Pollution Abatement Rules through their own observations, they may investigate the complaint to determine if a violation is occurring. If a violation has occurred, the Division of Forestry and the SWCD will work with the landowner, logger, forester or other responsible parties to develop solutions to bring the site back into compliance with state water quality standards. This generally involves identifying needed Best Management Practices and establishing deadlines for the implementation of the practices.

Failure to comply with the deadlines established by the SWCD or Division may lead to the issuance of a legal order (Chief’s Order). Failure to comply with a Chief’s Order is a misdemeanor of the first degree and each day of violation is a separate offense.

Throughout the history of the Forestry Pollution Abatement Program, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Soil and Water Conservation Districts have worked closely with woodland landowners and the forest industry to resolve forestry pollution issues in a timely manner and avoid unnecessary legal penalties.