Conservationists Applaud the Release of the New Forest Service Draft Guidelines Protecting Water Security

Two Forest Service actions will allow the agency to better monitor, conserve, and protect water in National Forests

Arlington, VA | May 02, 2014

Communities, agriculture, sportsmen, and wildlife may realize a safer water future with a pair of new recommendations announced today by the USDA Forest Service.   

With much of the West in drought status, the Forest Service introduced two separate actions that will allow the agency to better monitor, conserve, and protect water on National Forests for people and wildlife. The first addresses groundwater evaluation procedures, the second proposes a series of best management practices for water management across the Forest Service’s 193 million acres.  

The two directives were released for public comment. The Conservancy and all other citizen, industry, public and governmental organizations will have months to review the proposals and suggest refinements as needed. 

The draft Directive on Groundwater Resource Management will enable the Forest Service to inventory and monitor water reserves beneath the surface of National Forests and Grasslands, which flow through the ground to rivers, lakes, and springs. The Forest Service will use this information to better maintain water resources over the long term, so people and wildlife continue to receive healthy water into the future. The Forest Service will work cooperatively with State and Tribal governments to determine how existing and new uses of water on Forest Service lands can be met.  

“More than half the water in the western United States comes from Forest Service lands. With drought now plaguing these states, the proposal to protect water on Forest Service lands could not come at a better time,” said Chris Topik, director of Restoring America’s Forests for The Nature Conservancy. “Just as people need water today, our kids will need it tomorrow. Our forests are critical to maintaining a healthy national water supply, so keeping track of how much water we have and understanding its use is a pretty basic, straightforward step.” 

More than 99% of the water used by people in rural areas comes from groundwater sources. Wildlife depends on groundwater, too: 17% of federally endangered species depend on groundwater for some part of their life cycle. 

“We are very pleased to see the Forest Service starting this important public dialogue,” commented Kimery Wiltshire, Executive Director of Carpe Diem West.  “Our network of water managers, community leaders and scientists know that effective groundwater management is a key part of protecting water supply on our National Forests.”

The second water proposal by the Forest Service addresses methods to reduce pollution and improve water quality on Forest Service lands. Specifically the National Best Management Practices Program will set technical guidance for maintaining water quality and non-point pollution standards on Forest Service lands, and develop a data management and reporting system to track these standards. 

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.

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Jon Schwedler


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