Forest roads workshop at Southern Regional Meeting

Over the last decade, several court cases have challenged the silvicultural exemption for forest roads and threatened to reclassify forest roads as point sources of pollution, subject to National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater permits. A recent decision in Northwest Environmental Defense Center v. Marvin Brown et al. (NEDC v. Brown) has created an immediate concern for the forest community.

The case was first considered by a District Court that ruled forest roads are clearly an activity covered by the silvicultural exemption. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, concluding that discharges from a system of ditches, culverts, and channels associated with “logging roads” are subject to NPDES permitting requirements for stormwater from “industrial” activities.

In May 2011, the Ninth Circuit refused a request for an en banc review, thus letting its earlier decision stand. Absent a possible appeal to the Supreme Court or legislative relief, states in the Ninth Circuit will be developing stormwater permitting programs for logging roads.

NCASI will host a special half-day workshop on Forest Roads and Skidtrails for the South the morning of June 15 at the Southern Regional Meeting in Memphis. Chip Murray (NAFO) will open the workshop with a discussion of NEDC v. Brown. Dr. George Ice and John Beebe (NCASI) will follow with a discussion of technical arguments used by environmental groups to justify the reclassification of roads as point sources of pollution. Dr. Erik Schilling (NCASI) will summarize forest road BMPs in the South and review implementation and effectiveness monitoring.

A panel of Dr. George Ice, Hughes Simpson (Texas Forest Service), and Dr. Matt McBroom (Stephen F. Austin State University) will then discuss monitoring and modeling of erosion from forest roads, focusing on southern forest conditions. Bill Lakel (Virginia Department of Forestry) will present new results on a test of treatments to reduce erosion from skid trails. The workshop will close with a panel discussion about industry initiatives to reduce erosion from forest roads in the South. The three members of this important panel are Jim Leist (Weyerhaeuser), Ken Bragg (Resource Management Services), and Mark Key (Westervelt). 

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