Forest Roads

Written by Science Knowledge on 2:46 AM

Timber companies must have roads that lead to harvesting sites to allow heavy equipment and emergency vehicles into and out of the forest. The companies usually build these logging roads themselves to meet these needs. But the road-building and the completed roads create a major disruption to forest ecosystems. In addition to the noise and dirt created during road-building, smooth-surface or packed gravel roads make forests vulnerable to the following occurrences:

» increased erosion and sediment runoff
» habitat fragmentation
» biodiversity loss
» enhanced exposure to invasive species, pests, and diseases
» disrupted migration routes by wildlife, reptiles, and amphibians
» wildlife mortalities on roads
» opening of once-inaccessible forests to hunters, off-road vehicles, and illegal farming or logging
» opening of territory to mining and farming

At present, logging roads and helicopter landing areas built on public lands cause those lands to lose federal protection as wilderness areas. In 1997 President Bill Clinton tried to reverse this policy by passing what came to be known as the “Roadless Rule,” which authorized the U.S. Forest Service to obliterate hundreds of miles of abandoned logging roads and halt construction on others. At the time, Forest Service officer Bob McDowell in Lake Tahoe, California, told the Tahoe Daily Tribune, “The kinds of roads that we will obliterate are the roads that don’t go anywhere—old logging roads and landing areas. The ultimate goal is to re-contour some roads, to make the road bed disappear.” The recovery of the land under the Roadless Rule has progressed very slowly, and thousands of miles of abandoned logging roads remain in North American forests. Some states, such as Idaho and Alaska, have challenged the Roadless Rule for putting too severe a restriction on their forest management. For example, at the close of 2003, Alaska had successfully won the right from the USDA and the Department of Justice to exclude the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule.

The effect of abandoned and overgrown roads has not been determined. Scientist Eric Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society said in 2005, “Roads are terrific at providing human access to areas, but unfortunately they bring with that access a host of ecological problems.” The timber industry countered that forest roads were necessary to serve local communities in times of wildfire, meaning an out-of-control fire. In 2005 President George W. Bush did away with the Roadless Rule to allow greater access for mining and logging in the nation’s forests. Chris West spoke for the American Forest Resource Council in support of the White House’s decision and to calm the public’s fears over road expansion: “Despite the environmental rhetoric, chain saws, bulldozers and drilling rigs are not gassing up to enter roadless areas.” The case study “Boreal—Earth’s Northern Woods” discusses how roads and other human activities in the forest have kept this debate alive.

Source of Information : Green Technology Conservation Protecting Our Plant Resources

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