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Data Information and Reporting for Indicator D.c.
Oregon Indicator of Sustainable Forest Management D.c.
Forest road risks to soil and water resources
 

Forestry Program for Oregon Strategy D:
Indicator D.c. is one of three indicators that will measure progress towards achieving Forestry Program for Oregon Strategy D: Protect, maintain, and enhance soil and water resources of Oregon's forests.
 
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Desired Trend
Increasing proportion of sampled Oregon forest roads are determined to pose a low risk to soil and water resources.

At-a-Glance: Condition, Trend, and Information
Once data for this indicator has been compiled and reported, this section will display symbols that at-a-glance illustrate the condition, trend, and quality of information available for this indicator.

Why is this indicator important?
A photo of a stream and riparian management area on the Santiam State Forest
A stream and riparian area on the Santiam State Forest
Roads provide many forest management benefits. They provide access for property owners, public recreation, fire suppression, vegetation and wildlife management, and product transportation.  However, roads are  a landscape-altering feature, and can have negative effects on both water and soil resources. There is a great deal of research on roads, and based on this research roads can have the following adverse effects on soil and water: 
  • Direct alteration of streams, lakes or wetlands
  • Blockages in the stream channel to fish migration, movement of gravel and large wood, or causing washout or diversion of stream crossing fills.
  • Landslides
  • Surface erosion
  • Stream flow alteration
 
Other effects of roads and road use can include disturbance of wildlife and their habitats and the spread of invasive plants, pests or diseases. These other effects are outside the scope of this indicator.

What does this indicator tell us about sustainable forest management?
Background:
This indicator addresses Forestry Program for Oregon Actions D.2, D.4, D.5, and D.6.
 
The Oregon Forest Practices Act prescribes best management practices that must be employed during forest road construction and maintenance associated with commercial forest operations on non-federal lands.  Federal land management agencies are recognized as designated management agencies for water quality standard compliance on federal lands.  In addition, one of the goals of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds is to further reduce the effects of roads on streams and aquatic habitat.
 
To this end, many private landowners and State Forests have been implementing the Road Hazard Identification and Risk Reduction Project since 1997. Thousands of miles of roads have been inspected and repaired as part of this project (Oregon Plan Report, 2005). However, there is no consistent monitoring of how road conditions improved after these repairs.
 
Road density is a parameter suitable for remote sensing that has been evaluated on some National Forests. This is not a reliable indicator unless all roads are in similar condition and location, and built with the same practices. There is no good comprehensive data for these road parameters at this time. The BLM has a GIS layer (Ground Transportation Roads and Trails) that could be used to find road density in both riparian and steep hill slope areas but this would require significant GIS analysis, plus, the road data is inconsistent and lacking among different land ownerships. In order to make the layer useful, a ground survey would be necessary to both validate missing roads, and calibrate for the quality of roads.  As part of the Oregon Plan there is a proposed effort to monitor roads consistently across forest ownerships, but this has yet to be implemented.
 
Current available information indicates that the conditions of roads vary by land manager, by landscape, and by relative position of roads in watersheds.
 
First and foremost, improving the quality and the amount of road data, based on systematic on-the-ground surveys, will provide assessment information that can help forest landowners manage their road systems better.  A secondary benefit of such a survey process would be information that could inform an indicator of the overall effects of forest roads on Oregon’s soil and water resources.

Description:
The objective of the rapid road survey protocol is to efficiently and effectively evaluate road risks to soil and water resources. The survey is designed to consistently evaluate current conditions and also near-term future road conditions as they are likely to be affected by major storms.  This survey can identify the road elements that pose the greatest risk to soil and water resources. The survey can be used to quantify fish passage restrictions, washout risk, hydrologic connection to streams, and forestlands that are in non forest condition, among others.
 
This indicator will focus on three of those elements.  The metrics can be used to compare the relative effects of roads in one watershed versus another and project potential changes in these conditions, for better or worse, over time with maintenance and repair (or the lack thereof).  
 
The sampling protocol for this indicator needs further development.  A data collection system is needed that can be consistently updated.  A stratified random sample by landowner class and geographic area is recommended.
 
Resources are currently not available to implement this indicator.  A challenge to full indicator implementation will be the potentially high cost associated with having an adequate sample to provide useful information.  Sample and stratification protocols have implications for cost and data quality.   It is estimated a sampling cycle to collect data for the indicator metrics and other road condition factors would cost $150,000 to $250,000 (approximately $100 per mile of road sampled) and would take about a year to complete using contracted services.

Overall Data Availability:
There is a great deal of research on the effects of roads, but little information on current road conditions. There is Oregon Department of Forestry monitoring data and reports on road drainage from 1995, and on turbidity between 2000 and 2002.  Reliable data on roads must be collected on the ground, as road effects on resources depend on location, construction, and repair and maintenance practices. Currently, complete and available data on forest road based on the rapid road survey protocol proposed by this indicator is limited to state-managed forestlands within three watersheds (Miami, Upper Nehalem, and Wilson). Similar monitoring was planned as part of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds -- Road Hazard Identification and Risk Reduction project, but has yet to be implemented.
 
With this indicator in place and with support from forest landowners and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, there may be an opportunity to obtain resources through a federal Clean Water Act Section 319 grant, Northwest Power Planning Council grant, or Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board grant to implement the rapid road survey protocol on all roaded Oregon forestlands.

Types of information produced by this indicator
This indicator will provide the results in tabular form of assessments of three forest road condition factors.  The primary purposed of the assessment information will be to assist landowners in identifying the road elements that pose the greatest risk to soil and water resources.  This indicator will be a by-product of that survey work.

Metrics and Data Sources


Metric
Data Source
  • Percent of road system connected to the stream network
  • Percent of stream crossings on fish streams providing passage
  • Land area in non-forest condition due to roads (road subgrade plus cutslope)
Grant-funded contract administered by the Oregon Department of Forestry in cooperation with other organizations

Related State, National, or International Indicators
  • Montreal Process:  Criterion 4 - Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources: 2003 Indicator 18:  Area and percent of forestland with significant erosion (rill, sheet, gully, mast wasting, and roadside), 2010 Indicator 18: Proportion of forest management activities (e.g. site preparation, harvesting) that meet best management practices or other relevant legislation to protect soil resources  and 2010 Indicator 21: Area and percent of water bodies, or stream length, in forest areas with significant change in physical, chemical or biological properties from reference conditions