Foresters for Healthy Waters

Posted: April 20, 2022 at 4:06 pm

By John Ann Shearer, Certified Wildlife Biologist, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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As North Carolinians we are fortunate that over half of our state land is forests. The timber industry is a large part of North Carolina’s economy. As owners and neighbors of these forests, we enjoy the many benefits they provide like clean air, beautiful green spaces, and wildlife habitat. Of course, forests are also a financial investment. At some point, forest owners will want to harvest their timber. How the harvest actually takes place on the ground can make a big difference not only on the land itself, but also in the adjacent waters and even downstream.

Foresters for Healthy Waters is a landowner cost-share program for pre-harvest plans. The idea is to encourage landowners and foresters to carefully plan for their timber harvest in a way that ensures that the nearby rivers and streams stay healthy and clean. Clean water benefits the people who drink the water and those who enjoy boating and fishing. It also provides benefits to the critters that live in our rivers and streams.

The Tar River and its tributaries in Granville, Vance, Warren, Halifax, Franklin, Nash and Edgecombe counties are home to rare aquatic species including the Tar River Spinymussel, Carolina Madtom and Neuse River Waterdog. The rural landscape of forests and fields is why these unusual species are still around. We want to keep it that way.

Putting extra thought into a harvest might mean marking streamside management zones, which are areas of trees around wetlands and waterways that will remain. Logging right up to the edge of streams releases sediment into the waters, which is the number one threat to these critters. A pre-harvest plan also addresses ways to minimize impacts from stream crossings, roads and logging decks. These are the kinds of details that a forester puts into a Foresters for Healthy Waters pre-harvest plan. When the logger receives this plan, everyone should be on the same page on the proper way to conduct the harvest and take care of our waters.

In addition to benefiting water quality, rare animals and local communities with this proactive forest management, landowners will be fully reimbursed by the Foresters for Healthy Waters program when they hire a certified forester to write their pre-harvest plans. It’s free to the landowner and profitable to the forester.

If you are a forester, become Foresters for Healthy Waters certified by taking the online training that provides program details and a template for the pre-harvest plan.

If you are a landowner, ask your forester for a Foresters for Healthy Waters pre-harvest plan.

Foresters for Healthy Waters is a cooperative program by the NC Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For more information go to: https://www.ncforestservice.gov/healthy_waters/costshare.htm