Forests naturally protect our water resources. Properly managing our forests can help protect our water resources. With education, awareness, planning, and best practices, landowners can become water protectors too.

Landowners can help prevent or minimize impacts to Georgia’s water systems by planning ahead for Best Management Practices (BMPs) with any forestry operations, and developing a Forest Management Plan. This will help identify sensitive areas and determine how to best manage forest opertations, such as:

  • timber sales
  • road construction
  • stream crossings
  • harvesting
  • site preparation
  • reforestation
  • herbicide/pesticide and fertilizer application

Utilize Best Management Practices (BMPs) to prevent and reduce impacts to sensitive areas of your land.

Best Management Practices (BMPs) are proven, common sense measures, methods and practices used to prevent or reduce water pollution during forestry operations. These practices are regionally-specific and science-based. BMPs protect water quality (including water temperature) and are updated regularly with input from various stakeholders. GFC works with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Division to oversee BMPs for forestry.

GFC conducts surveys to monitor BMP implementation about every other year. For the past couple of decades, forestry in Georgia has scored very well in implementing BMPs and protecting our water and land resources – scoring an “A” grade of about 90% or better.

Two of the most critical BMPs are Streamside Management Zones (SMZs) and water diversions.

  • SMZs are areas next to stream banks and bodies of water that must be specially managed to protect water quality and aquatic life. They provide a protective area as needed along streams and other bodies of water where disturbance and activity is limited. SMZs help prevent and/or reduce issues such as excessive erosion or sedimentation, logging debris input, pesticide/fertilizer inputs, and temperature changes.
  • Water diversions are structures used to regulate surface or sub-surface water flows. For instance, water bars with turn-outs, rolling dips and/or broad-based dips installed periodically within a road system allows the roads to drain off periodically into stable areas, preventing or reducing potential erosion and sedimentation.

Online BMP Learning Modules

GFC has partnered with Georgia Environmental Protection Division and Southeastern Wood Producers Association to produce a number of online Best Management Practices learning modules. These modules address various areas of BMP implementation and should provide a tool to landowners, foresters, loggers, timber buyers, and other forestry stakeholders in carrying out forestry activities in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Forest Roads – information needed for properly planning, constructing, using and maintaining forest access roads.
Pre-harvest Planning – tips for planning a timber harvest with particular emphasis on planning for proper BMP implementation.
Stream Classification – information needed to correctly determine stream types, which is in turn necessary for choosing proper streamside management zone BMPs, stream crossing BMPs, etc.
Temporary Stream Crossings – a guide to correctly choosing, installing, removing and stabilizing temporary stream crossings needed for timber harvesting.

Anyone needing additional assistance in answering BMP implementation questions can contact GFC Water Quality Coordinator Scott Thackston by email or at (912) 592-2316.

Forest-Water Connection Projects

The critical link between forestland and clean water is coming into clearer focus with projects underway across the state.

A USDA Forest Service Landscape Scale Restoration grant is being matched by a group of water utilities and the Savannah River Clean Water Fund to provide funding for outreach and education to the community on the important connection between retaining forestland, properly managing forestland, and good water supplies. Outreach includes providing information on conservation easements and cost share programs that help landowners along the Savannah River keep and manage their land in forests, resulting in watershed protection for all. Priority Georgia counties for the $3.3 million Lower Savannah River Watershed (LSRW) Initiative include portions of Columbia, McDuffie, Warren, Jefferson, Richmond, Burke, Screven, Effingham, and Chatham.

Plans are also underway for a project in portions of the Oconee River. For more information about the LSRW Initiative and other projects across the state, contact GFC Water Quality Coordinator Scott Thackston by email or at (912) 592-2316.

Helpful Resources

TitleDescriptionDocument Type
Best Management Practices – BMPs (2019)

Information for landowners, foresters, timber buyers, loggers, site preparation and reforestation contractors, and others involved with silvicultural operations about common-sense, economical and effective practices to minimize non-point source pollution (soil erosion and stream sedimentation) and thermal pollution. These minimum practices are called BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES and are commonly referred to as BMPs.

Conservation and Restoration Priorities in the Middle Chattahoochee River BasinPDF
Conservation and Restoration Priorities in the Upper Oconee River BasinPDF
Forestry Pesticide Applications – Complying with Georgia’s Pesticide General Permit (GAG820000)

Forestry herbicide applications are commonly used to help control competing vegetation in pine plantations. Pine plantations may occur in areas that could be considered waters of the state, especially in the Coastal Plain Region of Georgia.

Georgia Forestry BMPs for Forest Firefighting Dip Sites and Associated Spoils Material

In some instances, forest fire fighting activities dictate the need for adequate sources of water for use in forest fire suppression. Such water can be taken, through the use of helicopter dip buckets, from ponds, lakes, rivers, or other existing sources.

Georgia Trout Stream BMP’s Interpretation addendum

Georgia’s forestry BMP manual (revised in 1999 and 2009) recommends a 100 foot wide Streamside Management Zone, measured from the stream bank horizontally outward away from the stream; to be implemented on all Georgia designated primary or secondary trout streams – and tributaries (p. 11 Georgia’s BMPs for Forestry manual).

Georgia Water Planning

Georgia manages water resources in a sustainable manner to support the state’s economy, to protect public health and natural systems, and to enhance the quality of life for all citizens.

External Website
Georgia’s Best Management Practices for Forestry Manual

The purpose of this manual is to inform landowners, foresters, timber buyers, loggers, site preparation and reforestation contractors, and others involved with silvicultural operations about common-sense, economical and effective practices to minimize non-point source pollution (soil erosion and stream sedimentation) and thermal pollution. These minimum practices are called BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES and are commonly referred to as BMPs.

Learn, Plan, Act

GFC and the Southern Group of State Foresters launched “Learn, Plan, Act” as a way to promote sound forest management practices and provide helpful educational materials, guidance and other resources to Georgia landowners.

External Website
Lower Savannah River Watershed (LSRW) Initiative – Announcement

Announcement of the LSRW Initiative to support state forestry commissions and water utilities by strengthening the forest and drinking water connection through projects that enhance public surface water supplies.

Lower Savannah River Watershed (LSRW) Initiative – Project Area Map

Detail map of the areas within the LSRW Initiative.

Recommendations to Assist Federal Regulatory Agencies in the Determination of Ongoing Silviculture In Bottomland Hardwood and Cypress Swamps

The SGSF Water Resources Committee developed this general guidance document to assist Environmental Protection Agency and other federal regulatory agency representatives in making field level distinctions between ongoing silviculture for bottomland hardwood and cypress swamps and other land uses that may have similar operational aspects.

External Website
Savannah Clean Warter Fund Summary

Overview of the project to protect the water supply for communities and businesses along the Savannah River in Georgia and South Carolina.

Southern Regional Forests and Drinking Water (Infographic)PDF
Storm Damage and Forest Health Issues in Streamside Management Zones

Forestry BMP Requirements for Streamside Management Zones can be temporarily suspended for certain
catastrophic situations that have already or will threaten the forest canopy within an SMZ.

Timber Buyers Directory

This list is made up of buyers/harvesters who have submitted information to GFC and is not meant as an endorsement of any individual or company. For a full list of Georgia Master Timber Harvesters (GAMTH), visit the GAMTH database.

Page on GFC Website
Timber Harvest – Notice of Activity Form

House Bill 199 amended Georgia Code 12-6-24 to enhance the Timber Harvest Notification Process. Among the many positive changes in this code was the need to update and revise the Notice of Timber Harvesting Activity Form. GFC urges landowners and timber buyers to check with local officials to determine if a Timber Harvest Notification form is required to harvest timber in each county where harvests are planned.

Total Maximum Daily Loadings (TMDL)

In July of 1997, the state of Georgia came under a federal court order to develop Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) rates and implementation plans on water quality impaired stream segments. GFC was tasked with developing the forestry component for TMDL plans.

External Website
Using Geoweb and Geotextiles for Stream Crossings

Learn about Geoweb and Geotextiles with this informational sheet.

Water Quality Area Map

The state is divided into five regions to ensure the best management of water controls.