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Library Card

Napper, Carolyn ; Page-Dumroese, Deborah ; Howes, Steven . 2009. Soil-Disturbance Field Guide. 0819 1815P. San Dimas, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, San Dimas Technology and Development Center. 112 p.

The Forest Service considers the sustainable production of natural resources and the maintenance of soil and water quality high priorities as it plans and implements management activities. Legislation, such as the Organic Administration Act of 1897, the Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act of 1960, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and the National Forest Management Act of 1976, speak either directly or indirectly about providing high-quality water, providing sustainable production of timber and forage, improving growth of forests and grasslands, disclosing impacts of proposed activities on soils, and not degrading the productive potential of the national forests. Little definitive direction was given on how to accomplish these goals.

In response to these laws, all Forest Service regions developed soil quality standards and implemented direction or guidance relating to maintenance and protection of soil productivity. Over the years, a wide array of monitoring protocols and definitions of detrimental soil conditions have been developed to determine if, in fact, agency management practices met this direction. These uncoordinated efforts, while well intentioned, created a number of problems. The most significant problem has been the inability to compare and/or share monitoring data across administrative boundaries because of (1) inconsistent or poorly designed sampling protocols, and (2) inconsistent descriptions of soil-disturbance categories and differing definitions of detrimental soil conditions.

The development of reliable monitoring protocols for assessing and comparing soil disturbance resulting from logging operations is a key component of an adaptive management process for forest soil conservation (Curran et al. 2005). Uniform and unambiguous definitions of soil-disturbance categories must be part of such protocols if accurate, consistent, and statistically sound assessments are to be made. Such categories must also relate to forest productivity and hydrologic function (Curran et al. 2007).

A proposed soil-quality protocol that incorporates both a statistically rigorous sampling protocol and definitions of visually observable soil-disturbance categories has been developed by the Forest Service and is available in the Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring Protocol (Page-Dumroese et al. 2009a and b).

This field guide is a companion document to the national protocol (Page-Dumroese et al. 2009a and b), which also can be used on its own to identify disturbance classes and to monitor soil conditions before and after treatment.

Questions may arise regarding the accuracy and consistency of visual soil-disturbance assessments. Other forest management entities (Scott 2007, Curran et al. 2000) have found that such soil-disturbance observations work effectively if they are supported by a disciplined training program, frequent checking by experienced individuals, and training of observers. This field guide is intended to be used in such training efforts, and to help promote the high level of uniformity and consistency required when conducting visual soil-disturbance assessments. More importantly, it will improve the level of communication among all parties with an interest in forest soil-disturbance monitoring.

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