If you sold timber and the company’s poor management practices led to soil erosion and stream sedimentation, you’d probably have some choice words for the person responsible.
However, you’d be talking to yourself.
When woodland owners sell timber, their legal responsibility for preventing water pollution doesn’t automatically pass to the logger harvesting the trees. Under Ohio’s Agricultural Pollution Abatement law, which addresses impacts to the “waters of the state” resulting from timber harvest, responsibility rests with the landowner as well as the logger.
Sometimes, erosion or sedimentation problems aren’t obvious to the landowner until the start of the job or even after the job is completed. That’s why it is so important for the landowner to choose a logger carefully, to insist on a written contract that requires the use of Best Management Practices (often referred to as BMPs), and to file a Timber Harvest Plan (THP) with the local county Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) before starting the harvest.
In my 13 years with Soil and Water Conservation and dealing with logging issues, I’ve seen a lot of landowners who fail to make sure BMPs get mentioned in their contracts, and, in the long run, it cost them and their land dearly.
Plans not mandatory
Timber Harvest Plans are not mandatory for a timber harvest, but they can help landowners and loggers head off problems before and during operations. A THP may be filed by either the logger or the landowner. It provides a strategy for removing logs from your property with the least amount of environmental damage and describes the BMPs that will be needed.
THPs send a clear signal that the logger and landowner take erosion control seriously and lets the county SWCD know a timber harvest is being planned. If the county SWCD sees a potential problem with the plan, the plan can be revised before the harvests starts preventing future problems.
County SWCDs can also offer technical assistance, at the request of the landowner or logger, if a problem should occur after logging has been started.
A plan approved by the county SWCD can also help protect a landowner from nuisance or frivolous lawsuits as long as the BMPs in the plan are being followed.
Of course, just putting a plan on paper won’t ensure that Best Management Practices are followed during a timber harvest. Unless the landowner has the expertise in managing a timber harvest, it’s best to seek out professional help.
Service foresters from the ODNR Division of Forestry and county SWCD forest technicians can advise landowners on woodland management, including best management practices for timber harvest and filing timber harvest plans.
Landowners can also rely on private consulting foresters, who can manage a timber sale and oversee the harvest.
Industry foresters employed by timber companies that use raw wood products might also help landowners manage their harvest. Your local SWCD provides landowner workshops throughout the year with OSUE and Division of Forestry on managing woodlands for timber production as well as for wildlife.
The county SWCD offices can provide you with list of consulting foresters from the Ohio Society of American Foresters, Master Loggers that are certified through Ohio Forestry Association as well as advice on Best Management Practices.
To see Bulletin 916, Erosion Control for Logging Practices, log on to www.ohioline.osu.edu/b916/pdf/b916.pdf.
To contact your county Soil and Water Conservation District, visit the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Resources and search by county.