Stop Polluting Public Lands and Waterways

Obvious damage to a brook where a skidder repeatedly dragged timber through it.

Target: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Gina McCarthy

Goal: Stop the pollution of water bodies during commercial clear cuts by providing buffer zones with sanctions for all water bodies.

Issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, a rule that went into effect in 2014 recognizes that “we need clean water upstream to have clean water downstream.” Streams and wetlands trap floodwaters, filter pollution, support fish and wildlife, feed lakes and larger water bodies. However, the rule exempts forestry practices and, by so doing, ignores its own logic. Many states provide very little protection for perennial streams which flow all the time and nothing for intermittent streams. Intermittent streams are considered seasonal, but continue to flow beneath the surface. There are also no sanctions when project waste is improperly thrown into flowing water bodies. As a result, sloppy logging practices produce pollution from rotting trees, carried by tributaries, into larger water bodies downstream like lakes and rivers.

Commercial logging, focused solely on meeting timber quotas, can destroy an area through polluting practices that lack respect for waterbodies. Trout Unlimited and other groups that urge buffer zones have noted a very low level of voluntary compliance with best practices in commercial logging operations. Watershed pollution from sloppy logging degrades the level of water quality flowing into lakes and other larger waterbodies, but the only people who see it happening before it’s too late are the loggers. Few people visit logging sites and loggers discourage visits.

The rapidly-growing industry of craft breweries said defining and protecting clean water was essential to their market and the highly lucrative market in lakefront property loses value when lake quality is degraded. The truth is, pollution impedes commerce. Waterbodies on public lands must be protected from logging with real sanctions for violations.


Dear Administrator McCarthy,

We need waterbodies protected on public lands. Sloppy logging operations regularly dump project waste into water bodies with no respect for whether water is flowing or not. Even if it isn’t flowing on the surface, water is still flowing beneath. Skidders drive through waterbodies dragging logs behind them. Sometimes, skidders fall into water bodies to create massive holes that interrupt fresh water flows and the proper flow of water is never restored.

The federal government must insist commercial logging show a certain level of respect for our public lands or experience sanctions. If the government doesn’t try to protect our forests, they will be systematically destroyed from sloppy logging. Most critical to this protection is respect for water bodies. Trout Unlimited has documented low rates of compliance with Best Practices and other volunteer standards.

Minus genuine incentives, there is no reason commercial loggers will ever respect our woods. There must be sanctions levied on loggers who destroy water bodies, an all too common occurrence.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Frank Robey

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  1. Cat Jefferson says:

    I do not believe logging should happen at ALL on lands that belong to ME, as one of the public! But if it must happen the damage, especially to the watershed must be protected!

  2. Michael Guest says:

    We can’t let this continue. Pollution is bad and harmful not just to the environment, but also to our health. We still need to take more action to protect our planet and stop these pollution attacks.

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