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Best Management Practices

South Carolina’s Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Forestry

Sandy stream
It has been shown that forests produce the highest water quality of any land use, and properly managed forests yield the greatest benefits. In addition to providing clean water, forests also absorb rainfall, refill groundwater aquifers, slow and filter stormwater runoff, reduce floods, and maintain watershed stability and resilience.

South Carolina is 66% forestland, and a significant portion of the state’s water resources are linked to healthy forests.  You can help protect our state’s water by using Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Forestry during all forestry operations.  BMPs help avoid impacts from timber harvesting, site preparation, prescribed burning and other forestry activities.

What Are BMPs?

BMPs are scientifically based guidelines for protecting water quality and maintaining site productivity.  Proper use of BMPs will prevent erosion, sedimentation and soil compaction.  Although non-regulatory, BMPs can also prevent violations of the US Clean Water Act, SC Pollution Control Act, and other laws and regulations that apply to forestry operations.

South Carolina’s Forestry Best Management Practices manual

Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Forestry have successfully minimized the environmental impacts from forestry activities for more than 40 years in South Carolina.   BMP guidelines are familiar to most who work in the forest industry and are published in the SCFC BMP manual.  Specific recommendations for streamside buffers, road construction, stream crossings and harvesting systems are included as are practices for chemical and mechanical site preparation, reforestation, prescribed burning, and fertilizer application.  In addition, recommendations for wildlife and scenic quality are also mentioned.  Over the past 40 years BMPs have evolved and supplemental manuals were developed to cover emerging issues, such as biomass harvesting, and provide specific recommendations for special areas such as braided streams.  Through all of these changes they have remained highly effective and widely implemented.

Supplements also available for download:

Excellent record of BMP compliance in SC

BMP effectiveness, monitoring and implementation studies of forestry activities in the state have been ongoing since 1990 to ensure effectiveness and seek further improvement in the BMP program.  The latest monitoring study, published in 2020, found that 96.1% of timber harvests in SC were in compliance with BMPs and sufficiently protected water quality.  The success of this program is the result of strong support and cooperation between the forestry contractors who put BMPs into practice every day, forest landowners, forest industry and the regulatory agencies.

BMP reports

What services are available from the Forestry Commission?

The SC Forestry Commission employs three BMP Foresters that work with landowners, foresters and contractors across their region to answer questions, offer assistance and address any BMP issues that arise.  BMP Foresters provide assistance through all stages of a harvest, ideally beginning with pre-harvest planning and then monitoring the active harvest through completion with a courtesy exam.  You can request a BMP Courtesy Exam to make sure your operation is in compliance with environmental laws and regulations.  Foresters also locate active logging jobs through aerial observation, incidentally from the ground and by notification or complaint, completing a courtesy exam on all located sites to ensure BMPs are properly applied.

BMP Foresters also deliver presentations to school groups, landowner associations, and professional organizations along with assisting the SC Forestry Association with the delivery of the TOP logger training program.  Presentations and training sessions raise the awareness of BMPs and the importance of water quality protection across the state.  For more information on TOP Logger training, check the Forestry Association of South Carolina website, which includes a calendar of upcoming training opportunities.

What you can do

  1. Ensure that your written contract requires compliance with BMPs.
  2. Choose a logger or contractor who has completed the SC Forestry Association’s Timber Operations Professional program and is fully trained in proper application of BMPs.  A list of TOP trained loggers can be found here.
  3. Request a BMP Courtesy Exam . Your local SC Forestry Commission BMP Forester can provide free on-site services to make sure your operation is in compliance with environmental laws and regulations.
  4. Notify us if you are concerned about an ongoing forestry operation.
  5. Inform your neighbors and fellow forest landowners about the importance of forestry BMPs.

BMP cost-share program

The South Carolina Forestry Commission has established the Forestry Best Management Practices (BMP) Cost-Share Program to improve stream crossing BMP compliance and help protect the waters of South Carolina. Learn more about this exciting new program that can help defray the costs of purchasing portable bridges or installing permanent stream crossings associated with a timber harvest.

Temporary logging bridge rental program

The South Carolina Forestry Commission (SCFC) has established a temporary logging bridge rental program in an effort to enhance the Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Forestry program and help protect the waters of South Carolina.  The Commission has acquired four sets of steel bridges that are available for rent by adequately insured contractors for forestry-related ditch or stream crossings.

Forest-water connection

It is well documented that forests provide outstanding source water protection and generate the most stable and highest quality water supplies among all land uses.  Currently 45% of South Carolina’s population is served by surface drinking water and 60% of that water supply originates on forestland.  Sound stewardship of forest land is imperative to ensure a clean, reliable, and affordable water supply for South Carolina now and into the future. 

Quantifying the role of State and private forest lands in providing surface drinking water supply for South Carolina

Southern Forest Water Infographic

Explore the relationship between forests and drinking water with this video series

Additional information