The N.C. Forest Service’s District 11 team is the 2012 recipient of the Moreland Gueth Water Quality Award. The award is given in honor of Moreland Gueth, who had a dedicated and commonsense approach to working with people and protecting water quality. Gueth was the Forest Service’s statewide water quality and wetlands staff forester, a position he held from 1996 to 2005 before becoming the agency’s training officer. Gueth died unexpectedly in 2008.
In the last 11 years, Hillsborough-based District 11 has consistently ranked first or second statewide in total number of water quality accomplishments. Many of the district’s water quality inspections have occurred on sites that were being actively harvested. In fact, over the past three years, 65 to 68 percent of the initial inspections done on harvest sites have been while the site was active.
Jennifer Roach, assistant district forester, said it’s not just the people in the district office that make this program work. “It takes everyone in the district, at every job level, to contribute and do their part in making sure that a consistent program is carried out,” she said.
The District 11 team consists of staff working in Alamance, Caswell, Durham, Granville, Orange, Person, Vance and Wake counties.
District 11 personnel not only have to inspect sites for compliance with N.C. Forest Practices Guidelines, but they also must be knowledgeable of the N.C. Division of Water Quality Riparian Buffer Rules, Roach said. Because all of the district’s counties except one are split by multiple watersheds, the staff must understand the differences in rules and regulations for the various watersheds. “The Neuse River, Tar-Pamlico River and Jordan Lake Watershed Buffer Rules all fall within District 11,” she said.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that the district is a mix of both urban and rural counties. Urban and suburban sprawl brings many questions and concerns about forest management and its impact on local water resources.
Personnel have formed the necessary working relationships with local government staff to help answer the questions that occur with forestry activities. Often, they also find they must be able to explain the details and limitations of the Right to Practice Forestry legislation in addition to the FPGs, Riparian Buffer Rules and best management practices to fully educate landowners about their rights regarding forest harvesting and water quality regulations.
Like other districts in NCFS, the staff in District 11 works with a variety of landowners and community partners to help protect or enhance local water resources. Staff members have participated in local meetings of the Falls Lake Watershed and the Jordan Lake Buffer rules as well as in meetings with DWQ. All of these rules have a significant impact on the way forest management is carried out within District 11.
Personnel also work with local erosion control boards, county soil and water groups, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, local land conservation trusts and other community watch groups. Over the past four years, district personnel have worked closely with land conservation trusts to find stewardship and forest management opportunities that will help protect water quality in the Upper Neuse Watershed. In the past seven years, they have assisted local erosion control and soil and water groups to enhance or protect water quality on local government properties such as schools, parks and county farms. The staff has also assisted local governments in the use of best management practices that protect water quality.
Staff members often work one on one with landowners, community groups, loggers, timber buyers and consulting foresters, explaining the use of guidelines and best management practices and expressing any concerns or issues that need to be addressed.
The district also provided daylong training to loggers, timber buyers and consulting foresters on the Jordan Lake Buffer Rules when they were instituted; participated in public community outreach meetings for Orange Water and Sewer Authority; assisted with three pro-logger trainings; and performed two trainings on best management practices for forest industry members working in District 11. The district also continues to assist with annual training of local university and college students.
“District personnel work with loggers to improve use of best management practices, place an emphasis on inspecting forest harvesting operations while active, educate landowners so that water quality is not impacted during forest management activities, respond to the concerns of our citizens, and assist community partners in meeting their water quality program goals,” Roach said. “The personnel in District 11 work together as a dynamic team that takes pride in promoting a proactive approach to protecting water quality.”