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U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture


About the Watershed Service Line

The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Watershed Management Service Line (WMSL) is important to fulfilling this mission as it provides services that enhance, remedy, rehabilitate or restore watershed health and resilience to promote the preservation and restoration of NFS lands.

Our Mission

Provide quality services, support and expertise in protecting, conserving and restoring watersheds and water dependent ecosystems, and build capacity for water and soil resource conservation and restoration across the National Forest System.

Services Offered

  • NFMA/Pre-NEPA offerings provide services to produce landscape assessments, watershed analyses, watershed restoration plans, and other landscape-level planning documents. Providing these services to clients typically relies on skills with remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) as well as an understanding of the Forest Land Management Plan (LMP) and associated laws, regulations, and policies that safeguard water resources.
  • NEPA offerings provide hydrologist, soil scientist and geologist specialists to support NEPA analysis. Analysis of project effects to hydrologic function and water quality and soil and landform stability and productivity are summarized in specialist reports, risk assessments and cumulative watershed effects analyses.
  • Aquatic and Riparian Habitat Restoration offerings involve the enhancement, rehabilitation and restoration of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands, and riparian areas. Design, permitting, contracting, construction, and monitoring services can be provided. Example projects include restoration of large wood to channels and floodplains, rehabilitation of channel morphology (width-depth ratio, sinuosity, riffle-pool sequences, floodplain access, and off-channel habitats), littoral zone complexity, and dam removal and reservoir rehabilitation. Aquatic organism passage (AOP) projects restore or create passage for fish, amphibians, reptiles and other species at engineered structures such as road crossings, dams, fish ladders and bypasses. Wetland rehabilitation can include levee removal, ditch plugging, ground surface grading to restore wetland hydro period, and decommissioning of water diversions. Most aquatic and riparian habitat restoration projects also include a component of revegetation with native herbaceous and woody species, and frequently removal of undesirable exotic invasive species.
  • Inventory, Monitoring and Assessment offerings include the inventory, monitoring and assessment of water quality, water quantity and distribution, watershed condition, aquatic condition, and soil and geologic resources. Examples include the USFS Region 5 Best Management Practices Effectiveness Program (BMPEP) and Stream Condition Inventory (SCI) protocols, and the Bureau of Land Management Multiple Indicator Monitoring (MIM) protocol. In addition post-fire burned area emergency response (BAER) assessments are produced.
  • Hydrologic Road Rehabilitation and Decommissioning offerings provide services to restore hydrologic connectivity and reduce risk of erosion and sedimentation and associated impacts to hydrologic function and water quality. Examples of these services are watershed sediment source inventories, road condition surveys, landslide hazard and stream crossing assessments, road prism reconstruction, storm-proofing, and road storage and decommissioning assessments and recommendations.
  • Remediation offering includes projects such as post-fire watershed scale hazard assessment rehabilitation (including BAER projects implementation work), mine site reclamation, landfill restoration, dam mitigations and power plant effluent mitigation.

Featured Project

Enterprise in Peru!

Enterpriser Camilo Arias ( recently collaborated with colleagues from the Amazonian states of San Martin and Ucayali environmental agencies in Peru on designing and conducting a watershed condition assessment workshop. These states have recently enacted legislation in an effort to use a watershed approach in the decision-making process. Watersheds are well-defined areas appropriate as organizational units, where natural resources and the socio-economical systems interrelate. The workshop gathered a group of stakeholders within two pilot watersheds, and together defined guidelines and indicators to assess the existing condition of watersheds. This work in progress aims at establishing a regional methodology for rapid assessments of Amazonian watersheds, which would then provide a reference for decision makers to work along stakeholders on management strategies to develop the region’s economy while protecting the natural resources.