Our forest management practices adhere to a combination of legislation, regulation, best management practices, and certification standards. These, combined with our expertise, ensure the health of forest soil, water, vegetation, wildlife, and aquatic habitat.
Our timberland management practices are driven by our objectives for sustainable timberland production and for environmental protection. Utilizing our decades of timberland management expertise, we have developed internal Best Management Practices (BMPs) that include regulatory and certification frameworks and provide a consistent, tested means of implementing environmental protection. Our timberland management requirements are used as a proactive approach to maintain the health of forest soil, protect water quality and aquatic habitat, and promote biodiversity. Our foresters implement BMPs as part of our environmental management system during all phases of forest management and across all our timberlands. We require that all contractors implement applicable BMPs during forest management activities on our lands and in our mill supply chains. The BMPs are evaluated in formal studies, field tested, revised, and adapted over time to continuously improve their effectiveness.
Our BMPs are influenced by a wide range of federal, state, and local legislation and regulations. At the federal level, the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA) and Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) are the primary laws surrounding environmental protection for private working forests. Federal measures are combined with state water quality BMPs that establish standards for logging, road building, reforestation, streamside protection, and other activities. Alabama include implementation of all stat, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi are among the states that have voluntary BMPs. In Idaho, BMPs are required under the Idaho Forest Practices Act (FPA). Standards and criteria under third-party forest certification programs such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) BMPs and measures beyond the federal and state requirements to ensure the conservation and proper management of timberlands. BMP implementation monitoring is a requirement of our environmental management system, and we conduct annual internal and external third- party audits of compliance.
Soil productivity is protected by minimizing soil erosion and safeguarding the uppermost organic layer during forest management. The organic layer forms under the canopy of a growing forest and is a critical part of the chemical, biological, and physiological soil properties that contribute to biodiversity and site productivity.
Through planning and experience, we have learned how to protect site productivity during harvesting when using large machinery to cut and move trees to log landings, which are areas where logs are delimbed, sorted, and loaded onto trucks for transport to mills. To reduce soil erosion and sediment loss, landings are kept as flat as possible, occupy as small a footprint as is feasible, and are located on dry sites. We have incorporated soil protection measures into our environmental management system for harvesting that include limiting logging on soils with poor soil drainage during wet weather and using specialized equipment and logging techniques to spread out the weight of the equipment to minimize soil compaction and maintain site productivity.
In our southern operations, harvesting operations typically utilize a combination of harvesters to cut trees and log moving equipment to transfer the trees to landings for processing and hauling. We match the type of equipment to site conditions to protect the soil such as the use of track machinery to spread the weight of equipment and reduce ground pressure in wetter soils. Other techniques that protect soils and minimize soil compaction include building a mat of logs upon which the large equipment operates.
In Idaho, we encourage our contractors’ use of equipment that minimizes soil disturbance including the use of new innovations such as winch- assisted logging systems. These systems tether harvesting equipment using cables to stabilize it and virtually eliminate loss of traction and spinning that can loosen soil and accelerate erosion. Extra attention and investment is made in road BMPs, such as using gravel to surface roads that cross creeks, and to minimize sediment.
Over 50 percent of the nation’s drinking water originates from forests and timberland owners play an important role in protecting water quality. The role of water quality BMPs is to conserve and protect water quality by minimizing sediment through the filtering ability of natural vegetation and erosion control measures adjacent to water bodies. BMPs include practices such as leaving streamside management zones (SMZs) during harvest, properly designing and constructing logging roads, and using logging methods and equipment that protect water quality.
SMZs are unharvested or lightly harvested buffers that run along the length of streams and are designed to capture runoff and sediment. The SMZs provide significant other benefits, including stabilizing the banks of streams and acting as a source of food for aquatic organisms. By retaining trees alongside the streams, SMZs also shade the water’s surface from direct sunlight and significantly reduce radiative heating, keeping streams cool and clear, a particularly important objective in northern regions where cold-water fisheries are present. Riparian areas are important habitats for wildlife species and SMZs can provide wildlife with favorable habitat and travel corridors.
In addition to SMZs, proper design and construction of logging roads and use of logging methods and equipment that protect water quality are key components of our BMP implementation program in our Environmental Management System. Objectives include preventing surface water from flowing directly into a stream, keeping debris away from drainage zones, and minimizing sediment. Sediment is minimized for harvesting operations through BMPs that are designed to disconnect surface flow in areas where equipment may have exposed soil. Disconnecting is accomplished by building small earthen diversions or placing treetops or “slash” where water may flow, moving it off exposed soils, slowing the runoff, and causing the water to filter into the forest floor, which traps sediment.
Road construction, reconstruction, and maintenance can be a source of sediment that negatively impacts water quality and fisheries’ habitats. Our roads are designed to avoid or minimize stream crossings and to cross streams at right angles. If roads cross streams, we implement BMPs on all crossings to minimize stream sediment. Permanent stream crossings use bridges or culverts and are designed to protect the approaches to crossings from erosion. Proper road drainage is ensured using dips, bridges, and culverts, with an objective to disperse water away from the road and promote filtration into the soil.
The effectiveness of water quality BMPs implemented during harvesting, road building and site preparation has been the focus of numerous scientific studies. The results repeatedly show that the BMPs protect water quality and provide for healthy aquatic habitats supporting fish, aquatic insects, and mussels and clean water for human use and consumption.
Thirty years ago, we established the Mica Creek Experimental Watershed — an area southeast of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, comprising the 6,672-acre catchments of Mica Creek, a tributary of the St. Joe River. We created this “living laboratory” for one main reason: to conduct a multi-decade study of the effects of contemporary water quality BMPs on stream quality. Conclusions to date show that forest management that adheres to Idaho Forest Practices Act BMPs has little to no adverse effect on streams or aquatic life.
PotlatchDeltic utilizes a comprehensive timberland environmental management system (EMS) which focuses on continual improvement in achieving our sustainable forest management objectives. The EMS includes training foresters and contractors, and prescribing, monitoring, and inspecting forest management practices in all our operations. It also includes tracking and incorporating stakeholder feedback on our environmental performance. We conduct internal inspections of EMS implementation, and we have implementation rates averaging 95% or greater. The EMS includes monthly regional reporting and annual Timberland business unit reviews of environmental performance indicators.
The implementation of our EMS ensures that we conduct all our activities to meet or exceed federal, state, and local statutes and regulations for conservation of wildlife and biological diversity and protection of water, fish, and endangered species. In addition, the EMS ensures that we achieve and maintain third-party certification for all our timberlands under either the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative standards. Our EMS also covers log sourcing for our wood products facilities from responsible third-party sources under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Fiber Sourcing standard and, where applicable, the FSC Chain of Custody standard.
Correctly planning and constructing forest roads is an essential component of our environmental management programs. Roads are designed to manage the traffic load while minimizing environmental impact. We plan road construction using topographical maps, aerial photographs, and soil data to minimize disturbance to forest productivity, water quality, fish, and wildlife habitat.
Roads are planned to provide access for forest management and harvest with the least road length and width necessary and are located to avoid hazard areas and high-risk environmental areas such as swamps and unstable slopes. Following planning and design, trees are cleared from the areas where the road will be built. Trees removed during clearing are merchandized and hauled to mills for processing. The tops and limbs from the cleared trees are used as a slash filter windrow on the downslope side of the road fill to minimize soil movement.
Road construction requires the movement of soil to form a roadbed, road surface, and associated road ditches. We align the road to fit the natural terrain features as closely as possible so that the amount of soil movement is minimized. Construction techniques, culverts, and surface shaping techniques are utilized to limit the concentration of surface runoff and divert it away from roads and into the surrounding area in a way that minimizes effects to the watershed, streams, and fish. Exposed soil that has been shaped to form the road or roadsides is stabilized by seeding, compacting, or rocking the surface to minimize soil movement.
Stream crossings are minimized and whenever a road must cross a stream, the crossing is designed to provide for fish passage using techniques such as placing culverts so that they do not create an inlet or outlet drop that blocks fish movement and installing culverts at moderate gradients so that water velocities allow fish to swim through the pipe. For larger and steeper streams, additional structures such as arch culverts, bottomless culverts, or bridges are used so that the bottom of the stream is minimally disturbed, and flows are maintained. Regular preventive maintenance operations are conducted on roads to maintain use and minimize disturbance and damage to forest productivity, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat.
Tethered or winch-assist logging systems are a relatively new technology being utilized on steep terrain and an approach that some of our contract loggers have adopted. In tethered systems, a winch is fitted to the harvester which is then utilized to allow the harvester to access slopes by tying to an anchor point and “climbing” down the side of the slope.
Our foresters identified the technology as an opportunity a few years ago and worked with the Idaho Department of Lands to obtain the Forest Practices Act changes to enable the use of these systems. Today, seven of our Idaho contractors are using winch-assist technology to log steep ground.
The winch-assist logging systems have been a large investment for our logging contractors. The logging system has several benefits, however, including improved safety with fewer workers exposed to traditional timber falling. Productivity and efficiency gains can also be captured as logging contractors generate higher daily production volumes in steep slope settings. Environmental benefits include less soil disturbance and compaction as ground pressure is reduced. Experience has also shown that the equipment is a valuable tool in constructing fire lines.