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U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Best Management Practices (BMP) Program

The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of federal lands, much of which are located in the headwaters and recharge areas of the nation's water supplies. National Forests and Grasslands provide sources of drinking water for people in 42 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Clearly, the Forest Service has a critical role in maintaining the integrity of the water resources associated with National Forests and Grasslands and needs to take an active role, in cooperation with the states and Tribes, in comprehensive management of water resources on those lands.

Photograph: New bridge on a snowmobile trail with old stream crossing rehabbed on the Green Mountain National Forest.  Photograph provided by Nancy Burt.
Caption: New bridge on a snowmobile trail with old stream crossing rehabbed Green Mountain, Vermont

The National Best Management Practices (BMP) Program was developed to improve management of water quality consistently with the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and State water quality programs. BMPs are specific practices or actions used to reduce or control impacts to water bodies from nonpoint sources of pollution, most commonly by reducing the loading of pollutants from such sources into storm water and waterways. BMPs can be applied before, during, and after pollution-producing activities to reduce or eliminate the introduction of pollutants to receiving waters.

The Forest Service has been successful in implementing BMPs for many years, often using individual state-by-state approaches and documentation requirements. However, within the last decade, it has become apparent that the lack of a national, systematic approach to documenting BMP implementation and effectiveness was limiting the agency’s ability to respond adequately to water quality concerns both on and adjacent to National Forests and Grasslands. The Forest Service recognized a need to establish a nationally-consistent approach for addressing BMP implementation and effectiveness that clearly documents the agency’s efforts to protect water resources. Establishing clear national direction for BMP use and monitoring, for implementation on all NFS lands, would meet this need.

The National BMP Program will provide consistency among Forest Service administrative units. The National BMP Program consists of four main components: (1) The National Core BMP Technical Guide (Volume 1, FS-990a, April 2012), (2) The National Core BMP Monitoring Technical Guide (Volume 2, FS-990b, release TBD), (3) Revised National Direction, and (4) A national data management and reporting system.

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National Best Management Practices Monitoring Summary Report, Program Phase-In Period Fiscal Years 2013-2014 (FS-1070, December 2015)

The Monitoring Summary Report for the BMP Phase-In Period of FY2013-2014 (FS-1070) summarizes the results from the national monitoring of the 2-year phase-in period of national BMP monitoring and identifies the successes of the second year of BMP monitoring. The Report demonstrates the capability of a consistent nationwide monitoring program to document BMP performance.

BMP Monitoring Summary Report - Large file size (FS 1070) 61 MB pdf

BMP Monitoring Summary Report - Reduced file size (FS 1070) 17 MB pdf

The National Core BMP Technical Guide (Volume 1, FS-990a, April 2012)

The National BMP Program was rolled out in the spring of 2012 and distribution of the National Core BMP Technical Guide began that summer. The National Core BMPs are written in broad, non-prescriptive terms, focusing on 'what to do', not 'how to do it'.  Applicable State, tribal, and local requirements and BMP programs, FS regional guidance, and unit Land Management Plans are expected to provide the criteria for site-specific BMP design. This approach recognizes the importance of existing state and tribal BMPs and provides for the integration of the national program with those existing BMPs.

Revised National Direction Photograph: Installation of temporary crossing using heavy machinery with <br> sand bags on the Wasatch-Cache-Unita NF, Utah. Photograph provided by Charlie Condrat.
Caption: Installation of temporary crossing using heavy machinery with
sand bags on the Wasatch-Cache-Unita NF, Utah

The Forest Service is currently proposing to amend its internal agency guidance, called 'directives', to establish policy and responsibility for implementing the national system of BMPs and associated monitoring protocols. The directives consist of a draft revised Water Quality Management (WQM) Manual and a new National BMP Program Handbook. Once amended, the directives would require the use of BMPs on National Forests and Grasslands to meet existing mandates under the federal Clean Water Act and corresponding State laws to protect water quality from land and resource management activities. The revised directives were published in the Federal Register on May 6, 2014. The public comment period closed August 21, 2014.

Draft WQM Manual (FSM 2532-Water Quality Management) 40 KB pdf

Draft National BMP Program Handbook (FSH 2509.19) 62 KB pdf

A National Data Management and Reporting System

A common database that is accessible by each National Forest and Grassland facilitates documentation and reporting of BMP monitoring results at national, regional, state, and local scales. An interim National BMP Monitoring Database was completed in November 2013 and data collected since then using the National BMP monitoring protocols has been entered. By 2018, we expect to integrate the interim database into a more permanent data management system.

Frequently Asked Questions for the National BMP Program 48 KB pdf

Photograph: Silt fence and heavy mulch on the Wayne National Forest, Ohio.  Photograph provided by Mike Grebeck and Pam Stachler.

Caption: Silt fence and heavy mulch in Wayne, Ohio