FORESTRY Best Management Practices

Peter Smallidge and Gary Goff, Spring 1998

definition - Best management practices (BMPs) are proactive and often voluntary practical methods or practices used during forest management to achieve goals related to water quality, silviculture, wildlife and biodiversity, aesthetics, and/or recreation.

application - Harvesting, silviculture, and road design are tools to attain certain goals, but necessitate specific practices to ensure the continued quality and sustainable productivity of the forest. BMPs should be used, as warranted, under specific conditions and at appropriate times and sites.


BMPs can be divided into separate categories that relate to specific, if somewhat subjective goals. Goals specify the outcome of forest management activities associated with each category of BMP


Common Goals

water quality
  • reduce or eliminate non-point source pollution; maintain water clarity, quality, and quantity for human consumption and fish and wildlife habitat
  • maintain the desired stand characteristics, including adequate regeneration of suitable species
wildlife and biodiversity
  • provide habitat, food, and cover for a variety of wildlife species; optimize diversity of native plant and animal species among stands (landscape approach)
soil quality
  • maintain soil characteristics to ensure the potential of the site to continue productivity at current and historic levels
  • create or maintain forest conditions that are aesthetically pleasing (entirely subjective and owner specific)
  • provide opportunities for land owners and/or the public to pursue desired, often multiple-use, recreational activities

constraints - Constraints are biological and physical characteristics of a forest stand. The financial and stewardship interests of owners further determine the appropriate BMPs to attain management goals. Each category of BMP has constraints, some of which overlap with other BMP categories. Examples of constraints include: soil type, aspect and degree of slope, distance to water body and water source, deer population density, proximity and visibility to public, and season.

As noted above, BMPs are appropriate for several aspects of forest management.  One area that has received considerable attention is the use of BMPs to maintain water quality.  The following list is provided as a guideline.  If you are interested in more detailed information, contact your local office of Cornell Cooperative Extension or Soil and Water Conservation District.

BMPs Guidelines for Water Quality

Timber Harvesting Systems and Skid Trail Layout


Stream crossings


Site stabilization, closure, and revegetation

Season of Harvesting

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