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EPA’s New Water Quality Proposals: Additional Red-Type, higher Costs and More Litigation for Private Landowners

EPA’s New Water Quality Proposals:
Additional Red-Tape, Higher Costs and More Litigation for Private Landowners

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its intentions to require private forestland owners to get a federal “point source” discharge permit in order to conduct forestry activities on private land. A “point source” is pollution that comes from any identifiable point , i.e. pipes, ditches, sewers, or tunnels. The EPA is attempting to treat timber harvest and road building activities on private land as “point sources” of water pollution under the Clean Water Act.

This proposal will, among other things, 1) eliminate the designation of forestry activities as a “non-point source”; 2) regulate private forestry activities by requiring landowners to obtain point source discharge permits for such practices as harvesting, site-preparation, road construction, thinning, prescribed burning, and pest and fire control, and; 3) open the door for more extensive federal regulation in the future. Under the Clean Water Act, a landowner would be subject to fines of up to $27,500 per day as well as to citizen suits for alleged permit violations.

All this is unnecessary. According to the 1996 EPA National Water Quality Inventory Report, forestry activities are not identified as a leading cause of water pollution. In the 1994 Report, forestry was ranked the lowest of any “source” category tracked by the states. Published state forestry best management practices (BMPs) compliance and effectiveness studies document greater than 85 percent compliance nationwide and a multitude of scientific studies support their effectiveness in protecting water quality.

The comment period on the EPA’s proposed rules ended January 20, 2000. For more information, you can visit EPA’s website at

(Stefany Bales is the Communications Program Manager for IFA. IFA has a firm commitment to the business principles that have helped forest products businesses survive and prosper in the intermountain west for a century. Visit their website

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