Forest practices effectiveness monitoring

We evaluate whether forest practices rules protect fish, wildlife, and water quality through effectiveness monitoring on lands managed specifically for timber production (i.e., industrial timberlands).

Currently, we are conducting two scientific studies in Southwest Washington and the Olympic Peninsula, to determine the effectiveness of riparian buffers in maintaining stream water quality on forestlands. These studies are done in collaboration with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, and the Weyerhaeuser Company. We are planning a third study in Eastern Washington.

Our focus is on water quality parameters including stream temperature, water chemistry, turbidity, and aquatic macroinvertebrates. Our partners focus on stream-associated amphibians, instream habitat, riparian vegetation, fish density, and condition downstream.

Adaptive management framework

Young trees grow in the foreground. In the background is a sweeping view of more forests and the Columbia River near Cathlamet.

Forest plantation near Cathlamet, WA.

We deliver science-based recommendations and technical assistance to the Forest Practices Adaptive Management Program.

We participate on two key Adaptive Management Program committees established by the Forest Practices Board: the Timber, Fish and Wildlife Policy Committee and the Cooperative Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research (CMER) committee.

The Forest Practices Adaptive Management Program includes representatives from several state agencies including the departments of Fish and Wildlife, Ecology, and Natural Resources; federal agencies including National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Environmental Protection Agency; forest landowners; county governments; the environmental community; and tribal governments.

Current studies

The Forest Practices rules encompass all facets of forest management, including road construction, fish passage, herbicide and pesticide use, and forest harvest. In 1999, new rules were adopted that increased the riparian buffers along all fish-bearing streams and extended riparian buffers along at least 50 percent of the length of perennial, nonfish-bearing (Type N) streams. At that time there were few published scientific studies of nonfish-bearing streams and none that specifically evaluated the proposed rules. As a result such studies became a high priority.

We are conducting two studies in Western Washington in two distinct lithologies (underlying rock type) and are commonly referred to as the Hard Rock Study and the Soft Rock Study.

Closeup of a shiny-backed frog that looks like a cucumber pickle with legs and a short tail... It sits on a white net across a beige hand.

Coastal tailed frog.

The Hard Rock study

The Hard Rock study is focused on stream-associated amphibians, including the coastal tailed frog. Study sites are largely located within basalt lithologies where streams tend to have relatively coarse-grained substrate favored by tailed frogs. The study participants include the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Northwest Indian Commission, and the Weyerhaeuser Company. This study uses a Before-After/Control-Impact design with six unharvested reference sites and 11 sites that were harvested following one of three buffering strategies: a 50 feet wide unharvested buffer along the entire perennial stream, a 50 feet wide buffer along at least 50 percent of the stream length, and no buffer.

We monitored for two years before timber harvest and at least two years after harvest. Variables monitored include: amphibian demographics and genetics, instream habitat, stream temperature, shade, water chemistry, turbidity, stream discharge, litterfall, riparian vegetation, and downstream fish densities.

See the Type N Basalt Quality Assurance Project Plan to learn more. The initial report on the Hard Rock study is currently in review and is expected to be completed in the latter part of 2017.

The Soft Rock study

The Soft Rock study is similar to the Hard Rock Study, but is conducted in streams with a fine-grained substrate. This study examines the effects of forest harvest on water quality, aquatic macroinvertebrates, riparian vegetation, stream discharge, and the stream channel after forest harvest.

Read the Type N Experimental Buffer Quality Assurance Project Plan to learn more.

Eastern Washington study proposed

The Eastside Type N Riparian Effectiveness or ENREP study, intended to be a companion to Western Washington studies described above, will focus on water quality and aquatic macroinvertebrates. The study plan is currently under review.