Forest practices effectiveness monitoring

We evaluate whether forest practices rules protect fish, wildlife, and water quality. We conduct effectiveness monitoring studies on industrial timberlands, those managed specifically for timber production.

Currently, we are conducting three studies to assess the effectiveness of forest practices in maintaining water quality in forested headwater streams. Two of the studies, called the Hard Rock and Soft Rock studies, are in western Washington. We are conducting these on two contrasting lithologies, or streambed mineral compositions. The hard-rock areas have erosion-resistant basalt, and the soft-rock areas have an erodible marine-sedimentary lithology. A third study, called ENREP, includes sites in eastern Washington across a precipitation gradient from the east slope of the Cascades to the Mt. Spokane area.

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. Collaborators include the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, University of Idaho, Utah State University, and the Weyerhaeuser Company.

Adaptive management framework

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.

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.