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Extension > Environment > Trees and woodlands > Forest management practices fact sheet: Crossing options series > Culverts


Best Management Practices (BMPs) can prevent or minimize the impact of forestry activities on rivers, lakes, streams, groundwater, wetlands, and visual quality.


Harvesting or other forestry operations can damage stream habitat and water quality. Operators who need to move vehicles and equipment across streams must consider how they can do so and still protect streams.

Culverts are made from metal, concrete, polyethylene pipes, or wood boxes. An operator sets a culvert in the crossing and the stream flows through it. Workers can use a bulldozer, backhoe, or excavator to install or remove a culvert.

Where used

Culverts are used in streams with well-defined, deep channels without a lot of woody debris. Culverts need to be large enough to handle peak flows.


Do not install or remove culverts during fish spawning, incubation, or migration. Check with the appropriate regulatory or natural resource agency in your state to see if permits are required. You may be able to buy used culverts from highway departments or road-building companies. Consult local water-permitting authorities or county highway engineers when sizing and installing culverts.

When installing culverts:


Culverts are very portable and are usually readily available locally. Operators can install and remove them quickly.


Culverts cannot be used in some areas because of local regulations. Operators may need technical assistance to correctly size culverts for each crossing. If sized or installed incorrectly, they can damage the stream. Relatively large quantities of sediment can enter the stream during installation and removal.


Keep culverts free of debris that can cause clogging.

University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Logger Education Program, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University Extension, USDA Forest Service, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

WW-07003 1998


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