Frequently asked questions about the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest’s Sustainable Roads analysis. Information provided by Forest Service staff.
WHY IS THE FOREST SERVICE DOING THIS ANALYSIS?
The U.S. Forest Service is directed to implement the Travel Management Rule by Sept. 30, 2015, requiring each national forest and grassland to identify the sustainable road system needed for safe and efficient travel and for the protection, management and use of national forest lands. The rule requires each national forest to identify roads that are no longer needed to meet resource management objectives and should be scheduled for decommissioning or considered for other uses. The Forest Service intends to identify and maintain an appropriately-sized and environmentally-sustainable road system that provides access for recreation and resource protection, management and restoration.
SUSTAINABLE ROADS ANALYSIS. WHAT IS IT?
As defined in regulations at 36 CFR part 212.5, it is the minimum road system needed to:
- Meet resource and other management objectives as adopted in land and resource management plans.
- Meet statutory and regulatory requirements.
- Reflect long-term funding expectations.
- Ensure the identified system minimizes adverse environmental impacts associated with road construction, reconstruction, decommissioning and maintenance.
WILL DECISIONS BE MADE?
The analysis serves as the basis for developing proposed actions, but will not result in decisions. The travel analysis does not trigger the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Decisions on road closures or changes must be done under NEPA.
WILL THE PUBLIC GET A CHANCE TO GIVE INPUT?
The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest conducted public engagement meetings to discover what roads and destinations people value most and why. Public meetings invovled stakeholders and interested citizens, and special interest groups in a continuing dialogue regarding forest roads. The public will have subsequent opportunities to respond through the NEPA process to future project actions that may be recommended. District rangers will meet with Tribes in a government-to-government capacity.
WHO CONDUCTS THE PROCESS AND HOW WILL THEY DO IT?
The Sustainable Roads Analysis used an interdisciplinary, science-based process to evaluate individual segments of the road system. This process took into account public issues, forest plan allocations and management constraints.
Road segments were rated as low, medium or high based on evaluation criteria under categories of resource concerns and access needs. Forest specialists considered resource concerns for aquatics, wildlife, cultural and heritage areas, and invasive plant species; access needs for vegetation management, recreation, cultural and heritage areas, special uses, administrative uses, and joint ownership.
WILL ROADS BE CLOSED?
This is strictly an analysis and not a decision-making process. However, the strategies developed through this process will reduce the overall size of the road system. We will include full public involvement through the National Environmental Policy Act as we move forward to upgrade roads, close roads, decommission them or convert them to trails.
WHAT ABOUT NATURAL, CULTURAL AND HERITAGE RESOURCES?
This process identifies the benefits and risks associated with retaining, decommissioning or closing roads. The process will not make those decisions, but will inform future decisions and actions regarding the road network.
WILL MOTORIZED TRAILS BE INCLUDED?
Yes. The travel analysis process, while emphasizing roads, must consider the entire travel network, including motorized trails, as part of the benefits and risks analysis, route density calculations, connections to recreation use, and other similar considerations in order to be comprehensive.
HOW ARE COST-SHARE ROADS GOING TO BE ADDRESSED?
Cost-share roads that are under national forest jurisdiction will be included as part of the analysis. However, recommendations associated with the management of these roads will only be made in agreement with the land owners.
WILL THIS AFFECT FIREFIGHTER RESPONSE TIME?
More roads mean greater access for firefighters and equipment. However, firefighters reach fires through a variety of methods, including hiking, landing in a helicopter, or jumping or rappelling from aircraft. Fewer roads may mean greater use of aircraft and hiking for initial attack, and somewhat longer response times.
WHAT ABOUT STATE AND COUNTY ROADS ON NATIONAL FOREST LANDS?
While the analysis process will consider connections to private, county or state roads, recommendations will only apply to Forest Service roads.