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 Travel Management Rule requires each National Forest to:
- Identify the minimum road system needed for safe and efficient travel and for administration, utilization, and protection of national forest lands;
- Identify the roads on lands under Forest Service jurisdiction that are no longer needed to meet forest resource management objectives;
- Under separate actions, decommission or consider for other uses those roads identified as unneeded.
The minimum system is the road system determined to be needed to:
- meet resource and other management objectives adopted in the relevant forest plan;
- meet applicable statutory and regulatory requirements;
- reflect long-term funding expectations; and
- ensure that the identified system minimizes adverse environmental impacts associated with road construction, reconstruction, decommissioning, and maintenance.
Travel analysis takes a comprehensive look at the roads of the entire forest, and the issues, risks, and benefits for all users, and the associated forest resources. Interdisciplinary teams have reviewed available data, along with information we received from the public, about our roads, access needs, and the affected forest resources with the goal of determining where changes to current road management practices would be beneficial.
Travel Analysis Reports
The Forest Service has released 17 travel analysis reports that outline existing roads systems and identify opportunities to achieve a more sustainable system of roads for each national forest in the Pacific Northwest. These travel analysis reports are part of nationwide requirement involving national forests across the country.
These reports are not decision documents—instead, they 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.
The reports will inform future decisions on where and how to invest limited resources on building new roads, managing current roads, or decommissioning old roads. Travel analysis reports identify roads "likely needed" and "likely not needed" in the future, as well as opportunities to change road operation and maintenance strategies, decommission, convert to other use, or add to the system.
Through a variety of processes, national forests have worked closely with the public and stakeholder groups to collect information and feedback about social, economic, and ecological concerns and impacts around forest road systems. For many national forests, this is the first time they have looked at their entire road system in a comprehensive way.
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. It is a challenge to maintain all roads to proper safety and environmental standards due to increased use, aging infrastructure, and decreasing budgets. Many roads, built between 1950 and 1990, have exceeded their designed 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 for road maintenance are only about 15% of what is needed to fully maintain the current road system.
Of the 90,000 miles of Forest Service roads in Oregon and Washington, about 2/3 of those are currently open and maintained for both public and administrative purposes. The other 1/3 of the current road system is managed for specific project uses. These roads are opened during project activities, and closed and put in storage between uses. The travel analysis reports indicate that about 12% of the overall road system is “likely not needed” for resource management purposes in the future. However, the majority of roads in this category are part of the closed and stored road system. Only about 20% (approximately 2,000 miles) of the roads shown as “likely not needed” in the travel analysis reports come from the group of roads that are currently open to the public.
Travel Analysis Reports by Forest - Released December 2015
• Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
• Colville National Forest
• Deschutes National Forest
• Fremont-Winema National Forest
• Gifford Pinchot National Forest
• Malheur National Forest
• Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
• Mt. Hood National Forest
• Ochoco National Forest
• Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
• Olympic National Forest
• Rogue-River Siskiyou National Forest
• Siuslaw National Forest
• Umatilla National Forest
• Umpqua National Forest
• Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
• Willamette National Forest
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