Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (145 KB bytes)

Title: Best management practices for riparian areas

Author: Phillips, Michael J.; Swift, Lloyd W. Jr.; Blinn, Charles R.;

Date: 2000

Source: In: Verry, Elon S.; Hornbeck, James W.; Dolloff, C. Andrew, eds. Riparian management in forests of the continental Eastern United States. Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers, CRC Press LLC: 273-286.

Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication

Description: Forest streams, lakes, and other water bodies create unique conditions along their margins that control and influence transfers of energy, nutrients, and sediments between aquatic and terrestrial systems. These riparian areas are among the most critical features of the landscape because they contain a rich diversity of plants and animals and help to maintain water quality and terrestrial and aquatic habitats. These fragile areas are easily disturbed, and caution is needed whenever forest management occurs within them. Riparian areas are often linear features of variable width that have high edge-to-area ratios but generally occupy only a small part of the landscape. However, the linear nature of riparian areas means that resource managers and loggers, either through active management or the need to gain access to a site, will invariably come into contact with these features. Therefore, the proper management tools are needed to maintain the functions of riparian areas and minimize disturbance to the terrestrial and aquatic systems.

Best Management Practices (BMP’s) are developed to prevent or minimize the adverse impacts of forestry activities on water quality while permitting the intended forest management activities to occur. They serve as the cornerstone for most State water quality protection programs. Possibly the earliest effort to establish BMP guidelines was the "Criteria for Managing the National Forests in the Appalachians" (1971) by Regions 8 and 9 [Southern Region and Eastern Region, respectively] of the USDA Forest Service. The development of BMP programs has been a collaborative effort among State agencies and organizations (both public and private) and Federal agencies to identify practices that reflect the particular physiographic, economic, technical, and political considerations of each State. Monitoring has shown nationally that compliance with BMP’s is relatively high. However, by definition, BMP’s were designed to protect water quality, not the other functions and values of riparian areas. We need to move beyond BMP’s based solely on water quality to address these additional functions and values.

All State BMP programs recognize the importance of retaining some form of riparian management zone (RMZ) with management options that minimize impacts to the water resource. Achieving BMP compliance in these areas generally requires greater care, reduced physical intrusion (e.g., skid trails, roads, equipment) into the riparian management zone, and often reduced levels of harvest (e.g., thinning, uneven-aged management) or no harvest at all. It also requires preharvest planning that considers the landowner's management objectives. The BMP’s discussed in this chapter pertain to lands where silvicultural or other forest management activities are planned and conducted. This chapter will describe the management issues of concern, water bodies that are addressed by traditional BMP’s, RMZ options, and approaches to the development of RMZ guidelines that move beyond BMP’s and address issues other than the protection of water quality.

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
  • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication. (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)



Phillips, Michael J.; Swift, Lloyd W., Jr.; Blinn, Charles R. 2000. Best management practices for riparian areas. In: Verry, Elon S.; Hornbeck, James W.; Dolloff, C. Andrew, eds. Riparian management in forests of the continental Eastern United States. Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers, CRC Press LLC: 273-286.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.