Virginia's forests are a natural resource that, when properly managed, can provide a renewable supply of forest products without compromising the water quality of the Bay and its tributaries. Streamside forest buffers, and forested areas in general, provide nutrient uptake and soil stabilization, which can benefit water quality by reducing the amount of nutrients and sediments that enter local streams and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, conventional harvesting practices have the potential to damage riparian forested buffers and cause serious water quality impacts. In order to protect water quality and promote the efficient use of Virginia's valuable forest resources, the Department of Forestry (DOF) developed a Best Management Practices (BMP) guide for forestry operations entitled Virginia's Forestry Best Management Practices for Water Quality. If properly installed and implemented, these BMPs provide a low-cost method of protecting water quality during a silvicultural operation. To learn more about these BMPs and how to protect water quality before, during, and after harvest, contact your local DOF forester.
Although the Department of Forestry's BMP program is intended to be voluntary, it becomes mandatory for any silvicultural operation occurring within a Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area. Silvicultural activities that abide by the forestry BMP guidance are exempt from the Regulations, in part, due to the fact that they do not represent a permanent change of the landscape, as compared to traditional commercial, industrial, or residential development. These traditional development activities have resulted in the clearing of forests and farmlands and replacing them with large areas of impervious surfaces such as roads and buildings, which greatly reduces the capability of the land to provide for removal of pollutants, sediments, and nutrients from stormwater flow. However, land that is engaged in properly managed silvicultural operations is capable of providing long term economic benefits while retaining important wildlife habitat and water quality functions. The exemption provided to silvicultural activities is an acknowledgment of the importance of conserving these forested resource lands and encouraging their continued management.
Throughout the existence of the Bay Act and Regulations, there have been several ongoing concerns regarding silvicultural operations and other tree-clearing activities within Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas (CBPAs). One of the most frequently occurring Regulatory issues has been the misuse of the silvicultural activity exemption to remove vegetation from a parcel in preparation for the development of the property. The changes to the Regulations that became effective on March 1, 2002 address forestry-related issues by providing a definition of silvicultural activities. This further clarifies DCR's position on what types of forestry operations qualify for an exemption from the Regulations.
When property, that has been defined as real estate devoted to forest use under 58.1-3230 of the Code of Virginia, ceases that use and the lands are proposed to be converted to other uses, the full 100-foot wide buffer shall be reestablished. In reestablishing the buffer, management measures shall be undertaken to provide woody vegetation that assures the buffer functions. (9 VAC 10-20-130. 3b)
The CBLAB adopted guidance regarding silvicultural operations within locally designated Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas. To view this guidance, click HERE.