Colorado State Forest Service Releases Best Management Practices for Water Quality Protection

The Colorado State Forest Service has just released revised water quality protection guidelines for individuals and organizations conducting forestry-related activities in Colorado. The previous guidelines were developed in 1998.

Forestry Best Management Practices to Protect Water Quality in Colorado: 2010 is a publication designed to protect Colorado water supplies by providing best management practices (BMPs) for forestry-related activities. The CSFS and 10 other federal, state, county and private natural resources organizations participated in an audit of timber harvesting sites to evaluate the application and effectiveness of the previous guidelines. The audit team then provided input for and reviewed the guidelines described in the new publication.

Logging, road construction and other high-impact forestry activities can disturb vegetation and soil, which may cause erosion and pollute watersheds. The CSFS publication provides guidelines to protect water quality and minimize erosion by providing recommendations for implementing these forest activities.

The water quality BMPs apply to essentially all forest management activities, including logging operations, fuels mitigation projects, forest health treatments, invasive tree species removal and road construction. The guidelines apply to forestry professionals and private landowners harvesting timber or extending roads into forested watersheds.

“These guidelines are voluntary, and applying them often requires professional assistance along with personal judgment,” said Greg Sundstrom, assistant staff forester with the Forest Management Division of the CSFS. “But they also can be used to develop timber sale and forest treatment contracts, making the application of BMPs a requirement in those situations.”

The CSFS encourages those who work in or own forestland to use the water quality BMPs when constructing roads; establishing streamside management zones; conducting timber-harvesting operations; using pesticides or fertilizers; or designing stream crossings (e.g., bridges or culverts). It also is important to adhere to the BMPs when engaging in pollution-producing activities to reduce or eliminate water contamination.

“It’s vital that we safeguard the future of our water resources,” Sundstrom said. “If Colorado landowners and forestry professionals adhere to the guidelines in this publication, they can help protect the quality of water that flows from our forests to our faucets and fields.”

The summarized guidelines were condensed from a larger publication on watershed BMPs created by the CSFS, Colorado Timber Industry Association, Colorado Nonpoint Source Task Force and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The following organizations participated in the audit of the 2010 guidelines: Colorado Water Quality Control Division in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which also provided grant funding to print the publication; U.S. Forest Service; Watershed Science Department at Colorado State University; Colorado Division of Wildlife; Colorado Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service; Jefferson County Open Space; Colorado Tree Farmers; EPA; Intermountain Forest Association; and Colorado Timber Industry Association.

For more information about the Colorado water quality BMPs or to obtain copies of the publication, contact a local Colorado State Forest Service district office or visit