Loggers can protect water quality

WAITSFIELD — Vermont’s Natural Resources Conservation Districts are helping loggers and other forestry professionals do their part to protect water quality by increasing the availability of portable skidder bridges for rent.
A portable skidder bridge consists of three 4 x 20 foot wooden panels that are easily transported and placed next to each other to create a 12-foot wide temporary stream crossing. Loggers lift and place the bridge across streams, stabilizing the ends with bumper logs or brush.
Portable skidder bridges are widely recognized as a best practice, helping forestry professionals comply with Vermont’s Accepted Management Practices for Maintaining Water Quality on Logging Jobs, also known as AMPs. By creating more stable crossings, portable skidder bridges help avoid stream bank erosion, damage to habitats, and sediment runoff that leads to water quality problems.
Through a grant of $75,000 provided by the Ecosystem Restoration Program of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation to the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts (VACD), conservation districts built 14 new heavy-duty portable skidder bridges, mostly with the assistance of forestry students at local technical career centers. These bridges added to the limited supply of bridges available at local lumberyards for rent.  Lumberyards and conservation districts coordinate efforts for rental of the bridges at $100 per month.
Along with the bridge, loggers are provided with information on bridge installation, stream bank restoration after removal of the bridge, and Vermont’s AMPs. Loggers interested in renting a bridge may contact their local conservation district for more information.
In a complementary effort, experts from the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, which initiated the portable skidder bridge program, are available to provide loggers with on-site technical assistance in using bridges, as well as advice on other best forest management practices.
While much of the discussion about Vermont’s water quality has focused on sewage treatment plants and agricultural operations, there are a number of other sources of contamination of the state’s waters, including forestry operations. A 2013 study commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 14 percent of the contamination of Lake Champlain is caused by logging operations.

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