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

United States Department of Agriculture

Watershed Focus Areas


Watershed Condition

Watershed Condition is the primary indicator of soil and water health. Properly functioning watersheds support important ecological and societal services such as productive soils, biological diversity, threatened and endangered species habitats, spawning and rearing habitat for sport and commercial fish species, and flood control benefits. Acres of soil improved and miles of stream restored are indicators of improving health of forest ecosystems.

Watershed Condition Framework

The Watershed Condition Framework establishes a new consistent, comparable, and credible process for improving the health of watersheds on national forests and grasslands.

Groundwater Hydrology

The management of the National Forest System’s substantial groundwater ensures proper use of and continued benefits from this important resource.

National Best Management Practices (BMP) Program

 The Forest Service rolled out the National BMP Program to help ensure effective implementation, monitoring and documentation of appropriate BMPs to protect water quality from adverse effects of land and resource management activities on NFS lands.

Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Program

The Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) program addresses situations with the goal of protecting life, property, water quality, and deteriorated ecosystems from further damage after the fire is out.

National Riparian Program

Streams and adjacent uplands are managed to ensure continued benefits to dependent resources - fisheries, wildlife, and water - while providing a broad range of services, including recreation, forest products, and grazing.

National Stream and Aquatic Ecology Center

National Stream and Aquatic Ecology Center develops tools and science applications for effective management and conservation of watersheds, streams, riparian ecosystems, fisheries and aquatic ecosystems on National Forests and Grasslands.

Water Uses & Water Rights

Water Uses affect watershed condition and Water Rights are the primary method used to legally be able to use water for human and social needs. How and where water is used both on and off a National Forest impacts watershed condition and aquatic resources in positive and not positive ways. Managing the many uses of water is a primary responsibility of the FS as defined by Congress in the 1897 Organic Administration Act, stating that the forests reserves (now NFS Lands) were established “to secure favorable conditions of water flows”.

Water Hydrology

Quality water is the most important resource produced on NFS lands. National Forests and Grasslands supply some of the highest quality surface waters in the country, yielding some of the best drinking water and industrial process water sources. The Water Hydrology Program ensures continued protection and proper management of this vital resource through many tools and strategies, including the use of best management practices to protect water quality.