MBS Sustainable Roads Strategy Report Release!

After years of analyses and public engagement efforts, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has completed its MBS Forestwide Sustainable Roads Report in December 2015. The Sustainable Roads Strategy draw heavily from the public engagement process conducted in 2013-4 by the Forest Service in partnership with The Wilderness Society and Washington Trails Association and the Sustainable Roads Cadre. The Sustainable Roads Public Engagement Report capturing the process and results from that process, was also just released.

Key Results and Findings

  • No new system roads are needed.
  • Nearly 41 percent of the MBS road system (2,440 miles) has a resource concern of medium or high. The listing of numerous species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act and a large amount of unstable landscapes contribute to the high mileage of resource concern roads.
  • About 32 percent (783 miles) of Forest Service roads analyzed could be considered for decommissioning, closure, or conversion to trail.
  • About 64 percent (1,566 miles) of the current road system could be mitigated by reducing road maintenance levels.

Recommendations

Some key recommendations to address identified issues captured in the Strategy include:

  • Focus available maintenance funding and resources on the highest-priority roads identified in the SRS report, (address issues related to user safety first, then on repair/prevention of resource issues).
  • Focus any available capital funds toward improvement work on high-use roads with high environmental risks identified in the SRS report.
  • Prioritize funding for roads to be closed or decommissioned based on those with the highest environmental risks identified in the SRS report.
  • Ensure that timber sale purchasers or commercial users perform, or deposit funds, for road maintenance work commensurate with their use.
  • Seek additional funding for road maintenance through regular appropriations.
  • Seek new and additional funding sources for road maintenance and improvements through any available funding programs such as Capital Investment Programs, Legacy Roads and Trails, Forest Highway Programs, etc.
  • Seek partnership, cooperator, and volunteer opportunities to help leverage funds with outside sources.
  • Seek opportunities to transfer jurisdiction of Forest Service roads to other agencies.
  • Continue to restrict motorized vehicle use on the forest to a designated road system through travel management.
  • Maintain access to recreational sites that are provided by the Forest Service for public use.
  • Reduce the number of roads located in habitat for species-of-concern and species-of-interest.
  • Place seasonal restrictions on roads going through sensitive habitat.
  • During the NEPA process for management activities, consider closing open roads in the project area to reduce the maintenance costs.

Next Steps

The Sustainable Roads Strategy will guide future road-management decisions. Currently, the Forest Service is in the early stages of developing Access and Travel Management Plans (ATM) for the Upper North Fork Nooksack on the Mt. Baker District and the Lower Greenwater Sub-Watershed on the Snoqualmie District. These proposed analyses consider access needs for a range of forest uses—recreation, forestry, and traditional and cultural uses—in balance with reducing impacts to the land as well as the Forest Service budget.

There will be on-going opportunities for public engagement during the ATM processes. Public meetings on are expected to be held on the Upper North Fork Nooksack in early February 2016 and on the Lower Greenwater Sub-Watershed in late April 2016.

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