Thoughtfully constructed roads reduce effects on streams

Forest roads are essential for getting timber to the mill, and for fighting wildfire. Yet some roads, especially older roads, are a source of sediment flowing into streams.

With significant amounts of research and innovation over the past couple decades, the way forest roads are built – and where they are built – has been overhauled.

Newer, higher standards

Location is key

Today, forest roads are more often located away from streams and other water sources, so any runoff is drained onto the forest floor. Nowadays, roads are often located on ridgelines, for instance, and away from steep slopes.

Engineered to lessen impact

Excavation, surface preparation, drainage, gravel installation and grading are typically planned and overseen by a civil engineer to minimize the chance that muddy runoff will enter streams or other waterways.

Maintained for the long run

Forest roads, whether new or old, must be inspected and maintained to minimize the effects on nearby streams. New gravel, drainage systems, culverts or bridges may need to be added over time. If a road is no longer needed, it should be vacated, re-contoured and, ideally, replanted with native vegetation.

Account for fish and water

While engineers try to minimize the number of times a forest road crosses a stream, some crossings are inevitable. At crossings, rules require drainage to divert road runoff onto the forest floor, not into the stream. Rules also require that the crossing allow fish to pass up- and downstream.

Watch the weather

One of the recent changes to the forest practices rules puts additional requirements on roads that are used during very wet weather. Roads that are not up to the standard may not be used during heavy rain.

A Day in the Woods: Forest Roads

Join Mike Cloughesy and Nicole Strong as they explain the importance of quality forest roads. The roads in a working forest not only have to stand up to the punishment of heavy equipment, but also need to be designed in a way that prevents muddy water from entering forest streams. It’s a big deal.