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Road decommissioning: picking the right road

Posted date: January 23, 2015
Publication Year: 
Authors: Black, Thomas A.; Luce, Charles H.;
Document type: Briefing Papers


There are many miles of roads in our National Forests, many of them old and untended. Many examples exist where abandoned older roads fail and divert water from streams over hillsides, destroying downstream infrastructure and fish habitat. When resources are limited, and when visitors to the National Forests value road access, being choosy about where to do work and what kind of work to do is important. In most road systems, less than 10 percent of the road network delivers 90 percent of the fine sediment, and only a few stream crossings represent a substantial risk. Our primary metrics for restoration success remain number of miles of road treated or number of miles decommissioned. While this gives some indication of improvements for both wildlife and water related values, it is only a very rough measure.

Key Points:

The Legacy Roads program directs work towards urgently needed road decommissioning, road and trail repair and maintenance, and removal of fish passage barriers.

The Geomorphic Road Analysis and Inventory Package (GRAIP) is an ideal tool to prioritize roads for restoration or decommission. GRAIP identifies:

  1. Sediment delivery from roads to streams.
  2. Need and priority for road restoration based on risk of road related landslides and gully initiation.
  3. Less than 10% of the road network often responsible for 90% of road sediment delivery.
  4. Many aspects of road risk associated with watershed health in a single field visit.
  5. Effectiveness monitoring for BMP and TMDL work.

For more information visit the GRAIP website.

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