The U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region released 17 travel analysis reports in mid-December that outline existing road systems.
The reports are part of nationwide requirement involving national forests across the country and identify opportunities to achieve a more sustainable system of roads for each national forest in the Pacific Northwest, according to a Forest Service press release.
They are not decision documents but instead provide an analysis of where the existing road system is today. All future proposed actions and decisions will involve further opportunities for public input and engagement at the project level under national environmental policy act processes, according to guidance issued by Regional Forester Jim Peña to all national forests.
“The release of these travel analysis reports is a critical step to ensure our future road system investments promote the greatest good for the great number in the long run,” said Peña in the release.
The reports are intended help the Forest Service strike a balance between meeting a diversity of access needs while ensuring the health of forests and streams, he added. They will inform future decisions on where and how to invest limited resources on building new roads, managing current roads or decommissioning old ones.
As part of a national travel management process, the Forest Service is working to achieve a financially and ecologically sustainable road system that meets access needs, minimizes adverse environmental impacts and reflects long-term funding expectations.
The Forest Service manages approximately 90,000 miles of roads in Oregon and Washington that must be maintained to provide safe public and administrative access for a variety of uses, including recreation, fire suppression, commercial activities, forest restoration and other management purposes.
Many roads, built from 1950-1990, have exceeded their designated lifespan and require costly repairs. Unmaintained roads and infrastructure can impact water quality and wildlife habitat, especially fish-bearing streams. Backlog maintenance projects top $1.2 billion, and funds available each year are only about 15 percent of what is needed to fully maintain the road system.
About two-thirds of the Forest Service roads in Oregon and Washington are currently open and maintained for public and administrative purposes. The other third is managed for specific project uses.
Travel analysis reports for individual national forests in Oregon and Washington can be found at http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r6/landmanagement/?cid=fseprd485439.
To learn more about the Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/r6.