Water Quality photo identifier

Nonpoint Pollution from Forestry

Forest debris flow photo.  Author unknown.

Forest Practice Rules

Forest practice rules set forth guidance to preserve trees in streamside areas to shade the streams, which keeps them cool, and provide the woody debris that builds in-stream salmon habitat. They also require road construction and maintenance to help prevent stream silting, provide protection for wetlands, and set restrictions on pesticide use.

The Department of Natural Resources is the primary agency charged with overseeing forest practices in the state of Washington, and maintains the rules and adaptive management programs. For more information go to www.dnr.wa.gov/programs-and-services/forest-practices.

For small forest landowners, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources established the Small Forest Landowners Office to provide targeted financial and technical assistance, as well as education.

The forest practices rules are based on the 1999 Forests and Fish Report, which was developed by Washington State forest landowners and federal, state, local, and tribal governments. These participants agreed on a new set of aquatic resource protection commitments governing forest practices on state and private forest lands. Ecology is an active participant in the Forest Practices Adaptive Management Program for initiating changes, when necessary, to meet the goals of the Forests and Fish Report. One of the goals of the Forests and Fish Report is to bring and maintain waters into compliance with the state’s water quality standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ecology believe that, as a result of these commitments, waters covered by the report will meet water quality standards in the future. Recognizing the ability of these changes to protect water quality, EPA and Ecology assured the participants that the forest practices rules would be relied on to bring waters into compliance with the state water quality standards and the federal Clean Water Act.

The initial period for granting these Clean Water Act assurances ended on June 30, 2009. On July 15, 2009 Ecology completed a formal review of the forest practices rules and supporting programs to determine if the Clean Water Act assurances should be renewed, modified, or discontinued. Ecology extended the Clean Water Act assurances contingent upon the forest practices operational and adaptive management programs meeting date-certain milestones of program accomplishment.

The review findings and milestones for accomplishment were formally established in the document entitled 2009 Clean Water Act Assurances Review of Washington's Forest Practices Program, July 15, 2009.

The results of the Clean Water Act review and the expectations for future program improvements has been provided to the Forests and Fish cooperators and to the Forest Practices Board that oversees changes to the rules and guidance documents.

Ecology provided Guidance for Applying Turbidity Criteria to Forestry activities to help guide more consistent application of sediment control practices to the runoff from forest roads.

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Last updated December 2015