What are BMPs?
The term 'Best Management Practices', or BMPs, was coined nearly 35 years ago as a way to describe acceptable practices that could be implemented to protect water quality and promote soil conservation during forestry activities.
A BMP can be a structural "thing" that you actually install on-the-ground. Examples may include runoff diversions, silt fence, stream buffers and groundcover vegetation over bare soil areas.
A BMP can also be part of the "process" that you use to plan, conduct and close-out your forestry operation. Examples include preharvest planning, laying out roads in advance of construction, marking stream buffers with paint or flagging, and locating streams on the site before you begin work.
For forestry activities in North Carolina, the term 'best management practice' is actually defined by state administrative code rule 02 NCAC 60C.0102 (4), found within the Forest Practices Guidelines Related to Water Quality:
Best Management Practice (BMP) means a practice, or combination of practices, that is determined to be an effective and practicable (including technological, economic, and institutional considerations) means of preventing or reducing the amount of pollution generated by nonpoint sources to a level compatible with water quality goals.
Defining Nonpoint Source Pollution
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines the term "nonpoint source pollution" this way, cited from National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Forestry, April 2005:
Nonpoint source pollution usually results from precipitation, atmospheric deposition, land runoff, infiltration, drainage, seepage or hydrologic modification. As runoff from rainfall or snowmelt moves, it picks up and carries natural pollutants and pollutants resulting from human activity, ultimately dumping them into rivers, lakes, wetlands, coastal waters and groundwater. Technically, the term nonpoint source is defined to mean any source of water pollution that does not meet the legal definition of point source in section 502(14) of the Clean Water Act of 1987. Nonpoint sources..include return flow from irrigated agriculture, or other agriculture runoff and infiltration; urban runoff from small or non-sewered urban areas; flow from abandoned mines; hydrologic modification; and runoff from forestry activities.
Basically, nonpoint source pollution is a fancy term to describe polluted runoff that flows across the ground surface. By effectively using BMPs, you have a very high likelihood of preventing and controlling that polluted runoff, before it can reach a creek, pond, or wetland. And if you prevent or control nonpoint source pollution, you will most likely stay in compliance with the various water quality regulations for North Carolina.
Summarizing Forestry BMPs
For the sake of convenience, there is a North Carolina Forestry Best Management Practices Manual to Protect Water Quality that contains several BMP options that you may find valuable for your work. This BMP manual was revised in 2006 and is a comprehensive summary of not only BMPs, but also the underlying regulations that you must comply with.
You are strongly encouraged to implement BMPs whenever you conduct forestry activities. To assess the degree to which BMPs are used in North Carolina, the NCFS periodically conducts a statewide Implementation Survey. The most recent survey taken from 2006-2008 cites BMP usage at 85% on average statewide.
While the law does not require the use of BMPs on forestry sites in North Carolina, the emergence of market-demand driven forest certification programs has elevated the awareness and implementation of forestry BMPs to a new level. These certification programs require that participants meet or exceed the recommended BMPs for each state in which they own timberland or have manufacturing operations.