A weekly blog for all things conservation
By: Jonathan VanNoy, Natural Resource Specialist, BCCD
Timber harvesting is one activity that we get numerous comments and questions about here at the Bradford County Conservation District (BCCD). Let’s look at some of the regulations surrounding logging.
Like any other earth disturbance activity, logging is regulated under PA Code, Chapter 102. ANY earth disturbance activity requires the implementation and maintenance of Erosion and Sedimentation (E&S) Best Management Practices (BMP’s). Any activity disturbing over 5,000 square feet of earth needs to have a written E&S Plan. This would include basically all commercial logging operations. E&S Plan requirements are listed in Chapter 102, but basically the purpose of the plan is to eliminate accelerated erosion and sedimentation to waterways. Erosion is a natural process, but we have regulations in place to help prevent accelerated erosion, and the resulting sedimentation to our waterways. If a logging operation will disturb more than 25 acres, an E&S Permit would be required. It is important to note that this is not the total harvest area, just the sum of all earth disturbances from haul roads, skid trails, log landings, etc.
Logging also falls under the same regulations as any other activity when streams and wetlands are involved. Loggers can cross streams and wetlands with appropriate permits. Special care must be taken to reduce sedimentation to these wetlands and waterways. If working in Bradford County, general permits for stream and wetland crossings can be obtained through the Conservation District office. It should be noted that streams and wetlands are protected by the Army Corps of Engineers through the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972; Section 404, by the Department of Environmental Protection in the PA Code, Chapter 105, and by the PA Fish and Boat Commission in the Fish and Boat Code Act, Act 175. Typically, a permit through the Conservation District will satisfy all the requirements for these agencies.
The two main general permits that can be obtained through the Conservation District are the General Permit (GP) 7 and 8. GP-7s are for permanent stream or wetland crossings, and GP-8s are for stream or wetland crossings that will be in place for a year or less. There are some restrictions on these permits, however. Exceptional Value waters cannot be crossed with a GP-7, and both the GP-7 and 8 cannot be constructed in stocked trout streams between March 1 and June 15. Construction cannot occur in Wild Trout Streams between September 1 and December 1 without written permission from the Fish and Boat Commission. It should also be noted that ford crossing of streams is permitted but skidding across fords is never allowed.
The Conservation District receives a fair number of logging complaints. Sometimes, the complaint is mud on the roadway. Remember those Chapter 102 regulations? Loggers (same as everyone else) are not permitted to drag mud into the public roadways. They would need a BMP in place to control sedimentation (such as a rock construction entrance, to trap sediment as they haul out).
Sometimes, people complaint about the time of year that loggers are working. While there isn’t a regulation that prohibits logging during certain times of the year, planning the timber harvest to match seasons and soil types IS a Best Management Practice that will save the logger time, money, and potential environmental damages.
Some complaints are from people who had a logger on their property and aren’t happy with the way their property looks afterwards. Often, disturbed areas haven’t had seed and mulch applied, or haven’t been returned to preexisting grade. Sometimes stream banks at crossing areas have not been restored. These are things that should be noted in a contract, because oftentimes after a logger leaves the property, E&S violations can fall back on the landowner. The best advice is to vet your logging operator and have a solid contract in place before the operation begins. It is advisable to speak with a lawyer about drawing up this contract. A little money up front could save you a lot of money, time, and frustration in the long run! One final note: The Conservation District is going to be hosting a logging workshop this spring. Final dates haven’t been set, but we are planning for April. The workshop will be comprised of a classroom session followed by a field visit to a logging site. If you are a logger or know someone who is that would benefit from this training, contact the Bradford County Conservation District and we will contact you when the training dates are announced!
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.
Various staff at the Bradford County Conservation District