2017 Hot Topics

Each year, Stimson compiles and summarizes the available BMP and FPA compliance information of our log suppliers and from other woods producers across our fiber supply area. We then use this information to help us identify subject areas to focus our educational outreach efforts in the coming year. We call these our “Hot Topics”.

In 2017, our Hot Topics include: Stream Protection, Landing Location, and Water Bars.

Stream Protection

Inadequate stream protection continues to be one of the most common compliance issues. In 2014, these issues accounted for 22% of all Unsatisfactory Conditions found by the IDL's private forestry specialists in Idaho. Additionally, this was also the number one compliance issue in Oregon and Washington. Operating ground based equipment within the stream buffer was the predominant problem.

Stream courses in ID, OR, WA, and MT are all protected by state law. Each state has a unique set of rules to guide operations adjacent to streams. It is critical that these laws be adhered to in order to protect both water quality and important fish and wildlife habitat.

As a forest operator, there is no more important information to educate yourself on than the Stream Protection laws in your state. Stimson highly encourages you to learn these laws and to strictly follow them. If you have any questions pertaining to their meaning or on-the-ground implementation, please contact your state forestry office, or your local Stimson

Please click on the links below for more information:





Landing Location

“Location, location, location”. We often hear that slogan in the real estate business, but it is also true in the forest management business. The log landing is where everything comes together on a logging operation, and a log landing can make or break a logging operation. Too often an open area or a previous log landing is quickly chosen without thinking about the proximity to a stream course or proper drainage. Proper planning and layout is vital to a successful logging operation.

Landings should be located in well-drained areas where minimal excavation is required and sedimentation is reduced. Locate landings away from natural drainage systems. If a landing needs to be placed upslope of a stream course there are some things that can be done to mitigate sedimentation. Place hay bales in ditches or low spots that may flow run-off to catch sedimentation. Place rolling dips or water-bars between the landing and stream course to divert run-off from the road.

In general, it is best to minimize the size and number of landings. However, it may be better to have a couple of larger landings that are mediocre rather than several that are poor. If possible, try to reuse an existing landing if it is located properly.

The size of a landing is usually restricted by topography. In cases where topography does not limit size it is best to mark the boundary of the landing with flagging to keep it contained. One of the issues found in Stimson's audits were that landings were located properly, but then “grew” in size and ended up encroaching into stream protection zones.

Slash piles should be free of dirt and debris and placed away from standing trees. The best way to pile slash is with an excavator or log loader. If a cat is used, a brush rake should be incorporated and extra care needs to be taken to minimize the amount of dirt that could end up in the slash pile. Large chunks of wood or un-hauled pulp logs can be brought back into the woods and left as course woody debris.

Course woody debris is important for soil nutrition and wildlife habitat. Removal of these large wood chunks will result in a cleaner burn and reduced smoke. Contrary to popular belief, saw bars, oil filters, beer cans, and cable do not burn in a slash pile. These items need to be removed from the site and disposed of properly.

With the focus of biomass and renewable energy, chipping or grinding slash piles is becoming more common place and is a good alternative to burning. Special consideration for slash pile location and chip van accessibility is necessary if considering this option.

All hazardous chemicals need to be placed as far away as possible from streams to protect them from contamination. This includes empty hydraulic oil buckets, used oil filters, and empty grease gun cartridges. Far too often hazardous chemicals are placed “out of the way” from the logging operation and end up placed in a stream protection zone.

After the logging is complete there are still things that need to be done to close out a landing and finish the job. Exposed soils should be stabilized with grass seed and hay. If the landing will not be reused in the near term, reclaiming the site by planting should be considered. Ditches and culverts should be cleaned of slash and any blockages removed. Roads should be re-contoured to allow for drainage and water bars installed if necessary.

Water Bars

The water bar is perhaps the most common, inexpensive, and effective method for controlling erosion. A well-built water bar will help to accomplish two things; it will slow the speed of the flowing water, and it will divert flowing water from a road or skid trail into a more vegetated area. Slowing the speed of water flow will reduce its overall erosive abilities, therefore reducing the amount of sediment that the water is able to pick up and carry as it travels downhill. Diverting the water off a road or trail will stop the water from running over exposed soils and direct it into a more vegetated area, which will help to filter the water and sediment before it reaches a stream or other water body. Limiting the amount of sediment that reaches our streams and water bodies is the overall goal, and is absolutely critical to protecting both water quality and fish habitat.

Proper Construction

The proper construction of a water bar is critical to its effectiveness. If a water bar is improperly constructed it can actually cause more harm than benefit. An excavator or dozer equipped with a 6 way blade are the best choices for constructing water bars, although many other pieces of equipment can be used effectively. The blade of a skidder is commonly used, but it can be difficult to construct a quality water bar with a skidder on steeper ground. Whatever is used, the end results are the important thing.

*properly constructed water bars

The ends of the water bar are the most important. The upper end should extend all the way from the road bank or side of the skid trail to prevent water from bypassing the water bar all together. The lower end should have an open outlet to allow for the easy flow of water into a vegetated area. A water bar without a defined outlet can block water flow, increasing the sediment build up, and eventually filling the water bar and rendering it useless.

*road without proper drainage


The slope of a water bar and its angle to the trail is also an important factor. Ideally, the grade of the water bar should be between 2% and 4%. Too little grade can potentially cause the water bar to fill with sediment and fail. Too much grade and the water bar can self-erode.


The general rule of thumb is the steeper the trail, the closer the water bars should be spaced. The erosive potential of the soils should also be considered.

Water Bar Spacing Chart

Grade of Road/Trail (%)

Distance between Water Bars (ft.)















A typical water bar should be constructed between 1 and 2 feet tall. They need to be tall enough to divert the water and to sustain a limited amount of sediment build up. Generally speaking, the steeper the road or skid trail, the taller you should build the water bar.


Water bars should be installed as soon as possible after the use of a skid trail or road is complete. It is often tempting to put off the erosion control work until the end of the job. Depending on the size of the job, and the amount of time it'll take to complete, this can be risky. Even during the summer months, the chances of erosion are present. A strong thunderstorm can often cause more erosion that a 2-3 month break-up period.