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Summer Solstice 2009. Volume 14 No. 2 Inside… A Look Down the Trail, by Bethanie

Summer Solstice 2009. Volume 14 No. 2

Summer Solstice 2009. Volume 14 No. 2 Inside… A Look Down the Trail, by Bethanie Walder.


A Look Down the Trail, by Bethanie Walder. Page 2

Wildlands CPR Issues New Report on Forest Service Road Management, by Greg Peters and Sarah Peters. Pages 3-5

Policy Primer, by Vera Smith and Sarah Peters. Pages 6-7

Get with the Program: Restoration and Transportation Program Updates. Pages 8-9

DePaving the Way: by Bethanie Walder. Pages 10-11

Odes to Roads: The Spirit of Restoration, by Thomas R. Petersen. Pages 12-13

Citizen Spotlight on Kim Erion, by Cathrine Walters. Pages 14-15

Biblio Notes: Mitigating the Impacts of Roads as a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, by Adam Switalski and Liane Davis. Pages


Regional Reports & Updates. Page 19

Field Notes, by Adam Switalski. Pages


Around the Office, Membership Info. Pages 22-23

Visit us online:

Wildlands CPR Issues New Report on Forest Service Road Management

By Greg Peters and Sarah Peters (no relation)

Management By Greg Peters and Sarah Peters (no relation) The state of National Forest System roads
Management By Greg Peters and Sarah Peters (no relation) The state of National Forest System roads

The state of National Forest System roads does not resemble an idyllic drive down a backcountry road. Rather, images of erosive damage are common, exacerbated by a chronic lack of maintenance. Photos courtesy of Bureau of Land Management.

— story begins on page 3 —

Travel Planning and Legacy Roads, Connecting the Dots… I n mid-March, Congress passed the Omnibus

Travel Planning and Legacy Roads, Connecting the Dots…

I n mid-March, Congress passed the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 to fund federal government operations for the remainder of fiscal year 2009 (through September). The bill included important provisions on travel planning and Legacy Roads. First, it provid-

ed an additional $50 million to the Forest Service for the FY 2009 Legacy Roads program. Second, it included report language (see Policy Primer, p. 6-7) that directed the Forest Service to implement, on each national forest, a science-based roads analysis (as intended since 2001) to determine the minimum road system needed to meet resource management and recreation needs. Wildlands CPR had promoted both of these and we were extremely pleased to see a 25% increase in Legacy Roads funding nationally for FY 2009.

In early May, Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell provided testimony to the House and Senate Interior Appropriations committees on the FY 2010 budget. In her verbal testimony to the House committee she praised the Legacy Roads program, explaining that it was popular throughout the agency and had been quite successful. In addition, Chief Kimbell spoke about the Forest Service component of President Obama’s FY 2010 budget proposal. For the first time ever, the President’s budget included Legacy Roads explicitly – at the same level as FY 2009 - $50 million. In addition, Obama unveiled three new Forest Service “Presidential Initiatives,” focused on: effectively budgeting for wildfire; conserving new lands, and; protecting the national forests.

In her testimony, Kimbell linked travel planning and Legacy Roads work to each other by reiterating one of Obama’s sub-priorities, to: “implement travel management plans with an emphasis on decommissioning unnecessary roads.” Kimbell explained this as an appropriate connection by pronouncing: “The National Forest System has a transporta- tion system that is not suited to its modern needs and requires realignment to “right-size” the system for the future.” We consider it a victory when the Forest Service Chief adopts our language about “right-sizing” the forest road system. Similarly, it’s a victory that both the Chief and the President are explicitly discussing the need to decommission unneeded, ecologically damaging roads in their budget plans for FY 2010. The real victory, however, will be to get the agency to move from words to action.

This will be challenging, however. As explained in our Policy Primer (p. 6-7), the For- est Service recently released new travel planning directives that provide four loopholes so national forests can avoid ever having to undertake the formal analysis necessary to identify that minimum road system. As a result, Wildlands CPR and many of our partners have been meeting with Forest Supervisors, Regional Foresters, the Chief’s office and even the Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture to discuss this issue.

In these meetings, we’ve explained the opportunities that would be wasted if the agency doesn’t undertake full travel planning, including analyzing and identifying the mini- mum road system as soon as possible. Once those minimum systems are identified, and roads are prioritized for reclamation, then it will be much easier for the agency to allocate any new watershed restoration funds (e.g. Legacy Roads).

Wildlands CPR will continue to lead national efforts to advocate for Legacy Roads and similar watershed restoration funds. We’ll also work to ensure that funding and policies are well-matched and mutually beneficial. Unfortunately, the Forest Service hasn’t yet been able to truly connect the dots between travel planning and Legacy Roads. Perhaps sending them some nice new “sharpie” markers might help them along in the process?

“sharpie” markers might help them along in the process? P.O. Box 7516 Missoula, MT 59807 (406)

P.O. Box 7516 Missoula, MT 59807 (406) 543-9551

Wildlands CPR revives and protects wild places by promoting watershed restoration that improves fish and wildlife habitat, provides clean water, and enhances community economies. We focus on reclaiming ecologically damaging, unneeded roads and stopping off-road vehicle abuse on public lands.


Bethanie Walder

Development Director Tom Petersen

Science Coordinator Adam Switalski

Legal and Agency Liaison Sarah Peters

Montana State ORV Coordinator Adam Rissien

Utah State ORV Coordinator Laurel Hagen

Restoration Campaign Coordinator Sue Gunn

Program Associate Cathrine L. Walters

Restoration Research Associate Josh Hurd

Journal Editor

Dan Funsch

Interns & Volunteers Greg Peters, Owen Weber, Stuart Smith

Board of Directors Amy Atwood, Jim Furnish, William Geer, Chris Kassar, Rebecca Lloyd, Crystal Mario, Cara Nelson, Brett Paben

© 2009 Wildlands CPR


The Road-RIPorter, Summer Solstice 2009

Wildlands CPR Issues New Report on Forest Service Road Management

By Greg Peters and Sarah Peters (no relation)

O ften referred to as “the largest road building entity in the world,” the Forest Service boasts a road system of nearly

380,000 miles that cut across national forest lands. The agency also acknowledges a mini- mum of 60,000 miles of additional roads that are not “formally” in their system, but that do exist on the land. Wildland roads degrade clean drink- ing water; fragment wildlife habitat; create vec- tors for the spread of non-native, invasive weeds; severely damage fisheries and hunting oppor- tunities; and otherwise impact national forest resources. While some of these roads provide needed access for resource management and others provide recreational access, the agency has far more roads than it needs or can man- age. The result: an oversized, under-maintained, unaffordable, and ecologically destructive road system. It took the agency nearly 100 years to build all these roads (mostly for logging), and it is likely to take just as long to reduce the road system back down to a manageable size.

With such a vast road system, and so much potential for ecological damage, Wildlands CPR set out in 2005 to conduct a formal assessment of the Forest Service road system and its man- agement. We sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Forest Service asking for documents relating to the road system and the methods the agency uses to manage and track that system in the 85 western national forests. After nearly two years of litigation and negotia- tion, the information arrived, and we are now finalizing a report about the agency’s road man- agement strategies and its failure to effectively protect America’s natural resources.

Reviewing all of the FOIA information together paints a picture of a management ap- proach oriented to transportation rather than land and resource management. By focusing administrative protocols on safety and road miles maintained, the Forest Service impedes its own mission, which is “…to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations” (US Forest Service 2009). The agency should re-focus on identifying and mitigating the negative effects of the road system. The following sections provide more insight into the key documents we reviewed.

provide more insight into the key documents we reviewed. Which way to the well-maintained Forest Service

Which way to the well-maintained Forest Service road system? Photo courtesy of BLM.

Our primary analysis focused largely on:

• Annual Road Accomplishment Reports (RARs)

• Implementation of the 2001 and 2005 roads and transporta- tion management rules

• INFRA database of road status/management

Key findings in the report:

• The agency’s management has resulted in:

• Declining biodiversity, degraded fisheries, threatened water supplies, fragmented habitat, and serious resource damage.

• Lost access: travel routes available for passenger cars have dropped from 93,000 miles in 1995 to 69,000 miles in 2006, though access for high clearance vehicles has increased.

• Decreased maintenance of roads: the Forest Service main- tains roughly 15-20% of its road system annually and only 20-30% of roads meet their assigned maintenance levels.

• Increased resource damage: many national forests (Olympic, Gifford Pinchot, Flathead, Clearwater) have suffered cata- strophic road failures due to severe storms resulting in im- paired fisheries and loss of habitat. Streams are also harmed by the cumulative impacts of chronic sedimentation.

• Road Accomplishment Reports (RARs) – which act as the primary annual tracking system for road management – are budget driven documents that have little accountability and transparency, nor do they track ecological issues.

• The agency’s 2001 Roads Rule and 2005 Travel Management Rule have been underfunded and not fully implemented.

• The Forest Service’s infrastructure database, INFRA, is an unwieldy, inaccurate, problem plagued system that does a poor job of tracking the road system. Few if any protocols exist to guarantee accuracy and there are no mechanisms to track changes to the system.

• The Forest Service does not have a comprehensive, formal, ac- countable methodology for effectively managing its road system and ensuring that it is having only minimal impacts on the pub- lic’s natural resources.

— continued on page 4 —

The Road-RIPorter, Summer Solstice 2009


— continued from page 3 —

Road Accomplishment Reports

Each forest completes a RAR every year, detailing maintenance and management based on mileage and cost. But RARs do not link tracked actions to on the ground activities, so there is no way to discern environ-

mental benefits or costs. Just prior to publishing our report, we learned of

a separate database (that we did not receive) that links road management

spending to watershed issues, but apparently that database also fails to document actual road impacts, mitigation or restoration needs. Appar- ently in FY 2008 some data from these two databases was combined, but we do not have that information.

The RARs that we reviewed showed significant discrepancies in road accounting from year to year. They also highlighted the limited amount of maintenance the agency is able to accomplish. For example, between the end of FY 2002 and the start of FY 2003 (essentially from one day to the next), 1063 miles of road disappeared in Region 1 (Northern Region). Similarly, between 2002 and 2003, the Intermountain Region (Region 4) lost 1,748 miles, only to add 1,690 miles between the end of 2003 and the start of 2004. While not all examples were this egregious, the inconsistencies in the RARs are numerous and highlight a lack of knowledge about how many miles of roads the agency has, where they are, and how they are managed. According to the RARs nationally, the Forest Service had approximately 380,000 miles of roads on its system in 2001. Over the next six years, they decommissioned roughly 4,000 miles while adding about 5,000 miles— so, the 2007 total should be 381,000 miles, yet the 2007 RARs report only 375,000 miles. What happened to the other 6,000 miles? Are they still there? Is the agency managing them?

Perhaps more significantly, passenger vehicle access decreased nearly 25% from 1995 through 2007 – now totaling ~69,000 miles of roads. The Forest Service estimates that about 80% of road use occurs on only 20% of the roads – mostly the passenger vehicle roads. Yet the agency does not have the funding to maintain those roads to standard, so they have been letting passenger roads “degrade” to lower maintenance levels. This theoretically saves money (road maintenance on passenger vehicle roads

costs an average of $5000/mile, while road maintenance on high clearance vehicle roads averages $500/mile), but it also has the potential to increase wildlife, fisheries and clean water impacts, which cost money to mitigate.

It also means that if the agency wants to upgrade these roads back to pas-

senger vehicle standards it will be very expensive, as roads degrade dra-

matically over time when they are not maintained (see RIPorter v14, #1).

time when they are not maintained (see RIPorter v14, #1). Now there’s something you don’t see

Now there’s something you don’t see every day! A grader doing routine maintenance on a Forest Service road. Photo courtesy of BLM.

Roads Rule

In January 2001, the Forest Service adopted

a national Roads Rule. The intent was to identify

a fiscally and ecologically sustainable minimum

road system that meets both resource man- agement and recreational access needs. The agency estimated this minimum system would be between 146,000 – 186,000 miles smaller than the current system, and that it would take 20-40 years to achieve that new equilibrium. However, the agency has repeatedly adopted new direc- tives reducing the requirements for compliance with the 2001 Roads Rule, and postponing, indefinitely, the identification and implementa- tion of a minimum road system. Most forests, for example, have analyzed only their passenger vehicle roads and found that most are needed in the minimum system. By failing to examine their lower-grade roads, they have been unable to identify a minimum system that is meaningfully smaller than the current system. It appeared, with the 2005 adoption of the Travel Manage- ment Rule, that the Forest Service would finally begin long-term comprehensive planning for travel management, but that effort was seg- mented (see Policy Primer, pages 6-7), further postponing the identification and implementa- tion of a minimum system.


These problems are further complicated by the Forest Service roads database, INFRA. INFRA is an unwieldy, incomplete, problem- plagued database that fails to accurately track the Forest Service road system and its impacts. INFRA focuses on road mileage, road surface types, vehicle types allowed, and maintenance levels, yet it fails to document related resource issues. This provides another example of the agency’s transportation rather than resource management orientation. For example, no INFRA data fields indicate whether a road is in need of maintenance, when it was last physically inspected, or its distance from a water source.

There is no field to link a road to its National En- vironmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis, making

it nearly impossible to ascertain when, if ever, a

road’s environmental impacts were evaluated. Few, if any, protocols exist to assure accuracy, which causes numerous problems such as incomplete and ad hoc tracking of deferred maintenance costs. Without archival data, it’s impossible to understand how management has changed over time. For example, was a passen- ger vehicle road downgraded to high clearance, or was it always that way. In addition, because there’s no tracking, even “corrections” to the database could, over time, result in significant changes on the ground without any environmen- tal analysis.

The Downhill Slide in Road Maintenance

Road Mileage Maintained Percent of Road System Maintained
Road Mileage Maintained
Percent of Road System Maintained

INFRA also tracks road maintenance levels, which are subject to change without notice and may not reflect the original design or purpose of a road. For example, maintenance levels have been changed in the past (e.g. switching a road from passenger level travel to high clearance vehicle travel) at least in part, to reduce the fiscal burden of the road maintenance backlog (at least on paper). Finally, INFRA data can be difficult to connect with GIS layers, and when connected sometimes proves to be an inac- curate representation of conditions on the ground (i.e. roads that do not exist in INFRA are mapped in the GIS layer, or vice versa).


As the largest road-builder in the world, the Forest Service has as- sumed a management style more akin to a transportation agency than a resource management agency. The result: a bloated road system that is ecologically damaging and fiscally irresponsible. The Forest Service needs to establish a new direction for the 21 st century that incorporates road management in an environmental rather than transportation/access framework. By doing so, they can identify and implement a right-sized road system that is both ecologically and economically sustainable over the long-term.

— Sarah Peters is Legal Liaison for Wildlands CPR; Greg Peters is a contract researcher who will also be heading up Wildlands CPR’s Citizen Monitoring program on the Clearwater National Forest this summer.

program on the Clearwater National Forest this summer. What’s around the corner for the Forest Service’s

What’s around the corner for the Forest Service’s road management program? That’s yet to be determined. Photo courtesy of BLM.

Forest Service Issues Long Awaited Travel Management Directives By Vera Smith and Sarah Peters J

Forest Service Issues Long Awaited Travel Management Directives

By Vera Smith and Sarah Peters

J ust as this, the final year of the four-year travel planning initiative began, the Forest Service is- sued a series of guidance documents — known

as ‘directives’ — providing detailed instructions to Forest Supervisors on how to go about travel plan- ning. Unfortunately, portions of these directives run contrary to regulatory requirements as they relate to road and trail management, as well as the 2001 Road- less Rule.

and trail management, as well as the 2001 Road- less Rule. The loopholes in the Management

The loopholes in the Management Directives are literally big enough to drive a truck through. Photo courtesy of BLM.

Loophole 2

The directives say that any forest that has finished its motorized route designations can make subsequent designa- tion decisions without ever having to conduct a broad-scale analysis of the motorized transportation system. (FSM 7712(4)) So, once exempt, always exempt.

Loophole 3

The directives say that forests do not have to identify the minimum necessary road system as part of the exercise of de- ciding where motorized vehicles can drive (see, for example, FSM 7712(2) separating travel analysis to identify a minimum system from travel analysis to identify roads and trails appro- priate for motorized use). In other words, it would be accept- able to designate every road for motorized travel without first — or, in some cases, ever — deciding which subset of roads are necessary and which are not. This is analogous to making a meal without knowing how many people you will be feeding, what time they want to eat, or what dietary restrictions they may have.

A Maze of Loopholes

The directives generally offer a logical process for planning a motorized transportation system, but, frustratingly, also provide a series of loopholes, that when applied in concert, allow forests to dodge the most basic of planning responsibilities. The basic process outlined in the directives includes a detailed, science-based analysis of all motorized roads and trails on the forest, and might (we’ll talk about this

more in Loophole 3) result in a final product that identifies a minimum system of routes necessary for the “administration, utilization, and protection” of the forest. (“Use travel analysis (FSM 7712; FSH 7709.55, ch. 20) to identify the minimum road system needed for safe and efficient travel and for administration, utilization, and protec- tion of NFS lands per 36 CFR 212.5(b)(1).” (7703.12 (1)))

Common sense would dictate that forest managers should first identify the needed and unneeded roads, and sec- ond designate which of the needed roads are open to motor- ized public use. But after taking a closer look at the loopholes the Forest Service wrote into these directives, it seems that political desires, rather than common sense, played the lead- ing role in their creation.

Loophole 1

The directives say that forests need to conduct a sci- entific and fiscal analysis to guide travel planning, but then ex- empt any forest that has already begun the planning process from having to do so. (FSM 7712(1)) At the time the direc- tives went into effect in January, 113 of 155 forests had at a minimum issued notices to solicit public input on a proposed action or had compled travel planning by issuing an MVUM, effectively exempting themselves from the requirement to comprehensively review each motorized system route before proposing it for inclusion on a final map.

Loophole 4

The directives say that forests do not actually have to take a comprehensive look at all of their roads when iden- tifying the minimum necessary road system. Instead, the

directives provide an exemption for forests that completed this examination for their Maintenance Level (ML) 3-5 roads (passenger vehicle roads) in response to the first regula- tion, issued in 2001, requiring determination of the minimum road system. (FSM 7712(7)) However, approximately 82% of national forest roads are ML 1 (closed roads, not suitable

for passenger vehicle use) or ML 2 (high-clearance vehicle

roads). Only a handful of forests completed an analysis of all

ML 1-5 roads, with most forests focusing primarily on ML 3-5

roads. And, not surprisingly, they decided that they needed to keep most of the roads they analyzed. Those forests that

did assess their lower-volume roads tended to find many

roads that were causing significant environmental impacts

and were no longer needed. It’s these roads that should be

decommissioned in order for the Forest Service to implement

a “minimum road system.” But, as a result of these directives

and the manner in which most forests are implementing the

2005 travel management rule, whether or not these roads should remain in the system likely will never be analyzed.

The very real on the ground effect of this seemingly inno- cent exemption is staggering. Almost 57 percent, or 214,000 miles, of the nearly 375,000 miles of system roads are desig- nated to be maintained for high clearance vehicle use, while another 25 percent, or 93,000 miles, are managed as closed to all vehicular traffic. Furthermore, these roads are the most likely to fail, the least likely to be maintained to appropriate standards, and as a result, the most environmentally harmful.

and as a result, the most environmentally harmful. It seems that political desires, rather than common

It seems that political desires, rather than common sense, played the leading role in creating the Management Directives.

the leading role in creating the Management Directives. Another Blow to Inventoried Roadless Areas The directives

Another Blow to Inventoried Roadless Areas

The directives make it clear that the Forest Service be- lieves they can legally designate — and potentially construct — “trails” in roadless areas that can accommodate full-sized vehicles such as hummers, jeeps, and SUVs. While the 2001 Roadless Rule itself allows motorized use in Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs) and provides for the construction of

new trails as long as motorized use does not conflict with the

IRA characteristics, it specifically prohibits construction or

designation of new roads in these special areas.

The directives re-state the ambiguous definition of a trail that is contained within 36 CFR 212.1 (“A route 50 inches or less in width or a route over 50 inches wide that is identified

and managed as a trail.” FSM 2353.05) rather than taking the

managed as a trail.” FSM 2353.05) rather than taking the By defining a trail as “A

By defining a trail as “A route 50 inches or less in width or a route over 50 inches wide that is identified and managed as a trail,” the Directives invite motorized trail use by off-road vehicles of nearly any size. Photo courtesy of BLM.

opportunity to clarify the physical differences between a road and a trail on the ground. Instead, they add an additional category of trail, those open to “all motor vehicles, includ- ing both highway-legal and non highway-legal vehicles.” FSM


If a route can accommodate a full-sized vehicle the size of a hummer (or as small as a passenger car), which, as we all know, is a highway-legal vehicle, it is a road as far as envi- ronmental effects are concerned whether it is called a road or not. As such, the allowance to construct these motorized “trails” in roadless areas undermines the fundamental func- tion of the Roadless Rule, which is to disallow the construc- tion of roads in roadless areas.


Recognizing the importance of travel planning, Congress included specific report language in the Omnibus Appropria- tions Act of 2009 directing the Forest Service to conduct a scientific-based roads analysis for all maintenance level roads, and to identify roads for decommissioning in order to achieve the minimum road system:

“The Committees on Appropriations expect that each individual National Forest or Grassland will comply fully with all travel management regulatory requirements, particularly the science-based analysis in 36 CFR 212.5 (b)(1), the identification of unneeded roads in 36 CFR 212.5(b)(2), and the criteria for designation in 36 CFR 212.55(a) and (b). The Committees expect the Forest Service to identify priorities, and associated resource requirements, to fully comply with the regulatory require- ments of 36 CFR 212.5(b) (1) and (2).” 155 Cong. Rec. H2089-01 at H2110. (Feb. 23, 2009).

This language directs the agency to comply with all travel management regulations as it spends money on recreation management. The language provides activists with an oppor- tunity to re-engage the Forest Service to ensure they identify their minimum road system as part of travel planning, and that’s just what we’re doing now.

Program Updates, Summer 2009 Restoration Program O pportunities are bright for For- est Service road-related

Program Updates, Summer 2009

Restoration Program

O pportunities are bright for For- est Service road-related restora- tion with the influx of money

into the economy from the Federal Stimulus bill and the Omnibus Appro- priations Act. Our Restoration Cam- paign Coordinator, Sue Gunn, has been identifying opportunities to expand the Legacy Roads program through new funding mechanisms. In addition, her work to raise awareness about the importance of right-sizing the bloated Forest Service road system is starting to catch fire.

In mid-May President Obama released his proposed Fiscal Year 2010 budget, including $50 million in funding for Legacy Roads. In addition, Obama’s budget identified three Forest Service “presidential initiatives,” one of which mentions road decommissioning as a priority. Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell provided testimony to a House Interior Appropriations committee and highlighted the Legacy Roads program as something appreciated by agency staff, while also emphasizing the impor- tance of right-sizing the road system. While the agency had previously men- tioned the concept of “right-sizing” on occasion, it’s now becoming common language at the highest levels!

With all this funding comes a need to make sure the agency is spending the money well. In May the Forest Service released their final reports on FY 2008 Legacy Roads funding. Just as we were finalizing this issue of the RIPorter they released both the 2009 Legacy Roads projects and the bulk of the roads projects funded with stimulus funds. In

bulk of the roads projects funded with stimulus funds. In Wildlands CPR is gearing up for

Wildlands CPR is gearing up for another field season monitoring the effects of road removal on the Clearwater National Forest. Photo by Adam Switalski.

expectation of these many new proj- ects, however, Wildlands CPR’s staff sci- entist Adam Switalski finalized a citizen monitoring protocol for Legacy Roads and other similar projects. Check out the new monitoring forms in the Field Notes section on pages 20-21.

Wildlands CPR co-sponsored a res- toration practitioner workshop with the Nature Conservancy near Astoria, Or- egon. The workshop, “Improving road systems in the context of watershed restoration,” was a terrific success, including attendees from numerous

national forests, Oregon Department

of Forestry, Washington Department of

Natural Resources, other nonprofits, and private consultants. Following the

workshop, attendees got their boots dirty with a site visit to watershed res- toration and road reclamation projects

at The Nature Conservancy’s Ellsworth

Creek Preserve. As one Forest Service

participant said after the workshop, “I would like to ditto what others have said regarding last week’s meeting. It was informative and highly interactive.

A fantastic session — time well spent.”

Adam is also gearing up for the busy summer field season on the Clear- water National Forest and has hired our stellar contract employee Greg Peters as a fulltime staffer to be his eyes, ears, and legs on the ground collecting data.

Restoration Research Associate

Josh Hurd has completed final drafts

of the six reports that will make up his

“Political Economy of Watershed Resto- ration Series.” The reports cover such topics as: public perceptions about watershed restoration, business/regula- tory/funding environments of water- shed restoration, creating a restoration trade association and more. We expect the final reports will be published in early July.

Wildlands CPR staff members Bethanie Walder, Sue Gunn, and Sarah Peters participated as panelists at the 26th annual Public Interest Environmen- tal Law Conference, held in Eugene in March. Panel topics included restoring watersheds while providing green jobs and off road vehicle issues.

Transportation Program

S taff in the Transportation Program

have been extremely busy. Adam

Rissien, Montana ORV Coordina-

tor, organized two ski trips into the West Sapphire Wilderness Study Area as part of his work on the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest. In late May, in part as a result of information gathered on these trips, Wildlands CPR filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service challenging their snowmobile grooming program in this area. Adam also met with Regional Forester Tom Tidwell to discuss how national forests in Mon- tana have fared in their efforts to incor- porate subpart A of travel planning (see ABC’s of Travel Planning, The RIPorter 13.1) into their final travel plans. This meeting was a follow up to Congres- sional direction to the Forest Service to ensure that all national forests were completing subpart A and undertak- ing a science-based analysis to identify their minimum road system as part of travel planning.

Adam also worked with hunt- ers and anglers in Montana to try to strengthen ATV licensing requirements in the state. Unfortunately that effort didn’t make it all the way through Montana’s legislature this year. On the enforcement side, however, Wildlands CPR updated our sold-out off-road vehi- cle enforcement report, “Six Strategies for Success.” The new report is avail- able online at: http://www.wildlandscpr.


Utah ORV Coordinator Laurel Ha- gen got her feet wet in the Paria River, in Utah’s Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. She helped several rural residents set up a picnic as a counter-protest to an illegal ride through the river. Managed by the BLM, the Paria River is, on paper at least, off limits to vehicular travel. But, on May 9 about 120 off-road vehicles drove illegally up the rare riparian habitat of the protected Paria. Vehicle drivers were protesting the BLM’s an- nouncement that it would start enforc- ing a years-old ban on off-roading in the canyon. While stinky machines roared through the river bed, Laurel and other peaceful protestors picnicked on the river banks, some with signs asking ev- eryone to “Respect the Law.” It remains to be seen what, if anything, happens to those who illegally drove through the river, though the BLM was there watch- ing the event. For a full background on the story, check out Laurel’s blog post at report-paria-river-protests.

And back at the ranch, Legal Liaison Sarah Peters worked closely with Contract Researcher Greg Peters (no relation) assessing the mountains of information we received from the Forest Service as part of our 2005 FOIA request. The cover story includes most of the information from the Executive Summary of that report. We’ll post the full report and associated data to our website in late June or early July.

associated data to our website in late June or early July. In early May, off-roaders organized

In early May, off-roaders organized an illegal ride through the Paria River to protest BLM rules restricting motorized travel to roads only. Photo by Laurel Hagen.

Wildlands CPR On the Radio

Development Director Tom Peters - en starred on a local NPR program entitled “The Write Question,” and sounded like he might have missed

his calling as a radio personality. As editor of our book, “A Road Runs Through It,” Tom discussed the background and inspiration behind the book, as well as introducing our collector’s edition to a broader audience. You can listen to his interview from a link on our blog at


public-radio on April 27.

Support this work through Montana Shares

Wildlands CPR is a member group of Montana Shares, a partnership of Montana-based non-profit groups devoted to improving the quality of life in the communities throughout the state.

The 15th Annual Montana Shares raffle benefits Wildlands CPR, and you get a chance to win one of 13 fabulous prize packages, including 6 great getaways that include lodging, dining, recreation and more.

Go to Wildlands CPR’s website to enter: montana-shares

CPR’s website to enter: montana-shares The Road-RIPorter, Summer Solstice 2009 9
Shifting the Paradigm on Wildlife Mitigation and Transportation… By Bethanie Walder Holland’s longest wildlife

Shifting the Paradigm on Wildlife Mitigation and Transportation…

By Bethanie Walder

Wildlife Mitigation and Transportation… By Bethanie Walder Holland’s longest wildlife overpass, “Crailoo” near

Holland’s longest wildlife overpass, “Crailoo” near Hilversum, is 800m long and 50m wide at the narrowest parts. It crosses a two lane road, railroad tracks and a railroad yard. Photo © Marcel Huijser.

A fter graduating from college, a friend and I spent three months traveling around the United States backpacking in national parks and forests. Early in

the trip, while still on the east coast (I believe in New Jersey visiting friends, not public lands), we laughed out loud when we saw a highway sign that read “deer overpass” or some- thing like that. I can’t remember the exact wording, but it was clear that it referred to some type of wildlife bridge or underpass. We thought the concept was ridiculous… how would a deer know where the bridge was? Little did I know that just five years later I’d be working on these issues, or that I’d eventually marry a wildlife biologist whose research focuses on mitigating transportation infrastructure, including “deer overpasses,” underpasses and other tools.

Now, nearly 20 years later, I’d guess that most people have the same reaction my friend and I did when we saw that sign. Some probably laugh out loud and think it’s ridiculous. Some probably think it’s a waste of money, unless perhaps they’ve hit a deer, elk or moose while driving. And while safe- ty (avoiding animal/vehicle crashes) seems to be the main reason that the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) and state Departments of Transportation (DoTs) have begun considering wildlife mitigation, such measures also benefit wildlife by reconnecting fragmented habitat.

Though wildlife mitigation has come a long way in the last two decades, it’s still an anomaly, with mitigation structures like overpasses and underpasses the exception rather than the rule, at least in this country. It seems we have neither the political will nor the necessary planning to fully incorporate wildlife mitigation into new transportation spend- ing. Advocates worked hard, for example, to promote a “one percent for wildlife” measure as part of the stimulus package. It would have dedicated 1% of transportation funding to wild- life mitigation, but it wasn’t included in the final bill.

life mitigation, but it wasn’t included in the final bill. Keeping Up With the Joneses Other

Keeping Up With the Joneses

Other countries have embraced wildlife mitigation in a much more holistic way. The Netherlands, for example, is knee-deep in the implementation phase of a nationwide plan to reduce the impact of transportation infrastructure on wildlife. In April my husband and I spent a few weeks cycling around the countryside photographing newly installed mitiga- tion measures — we could barely pedal a kilometer without encountering some type of structure. The transportation and environment departments in Holland have been implement- ing mitigation plans for years, and wildlife mitigation is now abundant.

The Dutch have decided to make their transportation infrastructure as permeable to wildlife as possible within the context of a national prioritization plan, and they’re succeed- ing. Some structures serve dual purposes, allowing both peo- ple and wildlife to cross busy roads, but most are for wildlife alone. And the measures don’t just focus on ungulates (roe deer, red deer and wild boar) — they address everything from small mammals to amphibians and reptiles. Formal ceremo- nies mark the opening of new bridges. A few years ago the Queen christened what is probably the longest wildlife bridge in the world. Such events help educate the public and build support for creative ways to reduce our impacts on nature.

At left, a tunnel provides safe passage for smaller animals. Photo © Marcel Huijser.


The Road-RIPorter, Summer Solstice 2009

What’s more, Dutch mitigation for wildlife is a priority independent of road construction or reconstruction. If a road presents a problem for wildlife, its effects are mitigated if it falls within the prioritization plan. And while no measure can stop roadkill entirely, the impacts of transportation infra- structure can be reduced significantly. The Dutch plan also includes restoration activities. We had the good fortune, on one of our hikes, to find a heap of broken chunks of pavement that hadn’t yet been hauled away. It was a removed road, complete with an interpretive sign explaining why the road was being removed and what wildlife would benefit.

Sure, The Netherlands is a country of just 17 million people, with a land base about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, making it easier to implement a com- prehensive mitigation strategy. But while it would be more costly and complicated to implement such a strategy in this country, it could be done. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could make the same type of paradigm shift that has happened there? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if state DoTs and the FHWA incorporated mitigation as an integral component of road management, not an extra to consider only when funding is available? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we mitigated for all types of species and not just those that cost us money when we crash into them?

What We Know

The scientific body of knowledge about mitigation has grown tremendously. Multi-year monitoring from Banff National Park in Canada, for example, has shown how wildlife use of bridges and tunnels increases over time. Had research- ers stopped collecting data after just a few years folks would assume that the structures were not useful for animals like grizzly bears, but bears have learned to use these cross- ings over time. But again, wildlife mitigation of this sort is not common practice here, and both activists and wildlife biologists often have to pressure transportation officials to consider it.

have to pressure transportation officials to consider it. Bethanie Walder atop the pile that was a

Bethanie Walder atop the pile that was a road. Photo © Marcel Huijser.

atop the pile that was a road. Photo © Marcel Huijser. Holland’s concern for wildlife extends

Holland’s concern for wildlife extends far beyond charismatic megafauna. Photo © Marcel Huijser.

Here in western Montana, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes fought hard with the FHWA and Montana De- partment of Transportation (MDT) to get wildlife structures considered when US 93 north was being analyzed for recon- struction. The tribes pressed the agencies to rethink the proj- ect, and they succeeded (See RIPorter Vol.7 No.0, 2002). The 50+ mile section of rebuilt road will have more than 40 wildlife crossings (underpasses, extended bridges and one overpass) when complete. Many structures are already in place, with deer, coyotes, bobcats, black bears, elk, raccoons, otters, mountain lions, even house cats taking advantage.

At Wildlands CPR our emphasis is on watershed and wildlife habitat restoration, not mitigation, with a focus on low-volume roads, not highways. But the two are related and land managers should take a more proactive approach towards linking highway mitigation with watershed/ecosys- tem restoration in the adjacent wildland habitats. We have the know-how to get large and small animals alike across the road without getting killed, but they have to have somewhere to go when they get there. In addition, we need the political and societal will to invest in both mitigation and restoration at a large scale. Other countries have figured out how to do it. Some states are becoming leaders in this country as well, but too much still depends on having the right people in the right place at the right time.

Imagine a future where wildlife and aquatic mitigation and restoration are the norm, rather than the exception; where transportation planners actively consider native ecosystems, wildlife, and even pedestrians and cyclists at the primary stages of a project, not as an afterthought. That would be a seismic shift in thinking. Wouldn’t it be fun to feel that earth move under our feet?

The Spirit of Restoration By Thomas R. Petersen C hristopher Peters of the Seventh Generation

The Spirit of Restoration

By Thomas R. Petersen

C hristopher Peters of the Seventh Generation Fund, a non-profit group working for native people’s issues, says we cannot restore the land, the physical makeup

of the landscape, without also restoring the spirit of the land. To native peoples, “All things have life – rocks, trees, animals, and humans. The earth, mother of us all, has life.” Judeo- Christian religions tend to see the natural world as separate from the spiritual world: though they certainly appreciate rich sunsets, high mountains, and the sight of deer bounding across a field, these parts of the physical world are viewed more as the work of spirit and not spirit itself.

Can we restore the spirit of a place? Can we restore the spirit of a place once smothered in roads?

* * *

On the Fourth of July, two feet of snow covered our view of the twenty-eight stone spokes radiating from a central rock-piled hub of the Medicine Wheel, sitting at 9,680 feet elevation high in the Big Horn Mountains of northeastern Wyoming. All we could see was the central hub rising above

Wyoming. All we could see was the central hub rising above Offerings adorn the fence surrounding

Offerings adorn the fence surrounding the Wheel. Photo by Steve Dutch.

Editor’s Note: This essay is presented in two parts, with Part One presented here and Part Two to run in our Autum Equinox issue.

the snow, and six rock cairns, small piles of limestone placed at intervals around the perimeter of the Wheel.

My son Evan, nine at the time, moved into the stiff wind, clockwise around the fenced perimeter of the Wheel, shuffling in the deep powder. He paused at each of these peripheral cairns and sprinkled sage and cornmeal with gloved hands. The tokens barely reached the ground. The wind stole his of- ferings and blew them across the face of the Wheel. It was an age-old ritual not his own, but he understood as much as any of us did: we were told we would be guests in the presence of living spirits and we were there to attempt to honor and mingle with those spirits.

A sacred site to native peoples, the Medicine Wheel was built sometime between A.D. 1200 and 1700, but its makers and purpose remain a mystery. Some claim it was built as an astronomical observatory, used as a calendar to mark the alignment of the sun, stars, and celestial bodies with the spokes of the Wheel. Others say the early Plains tribes built the Wheel, its twenty-eight spokes being the exact number of poles or rafters used in the Sun Dance enclosures of the Cheyenne, Sioux, and Crow. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce is said to have fasted at the Wheel, and Crows still remem- ber the vision quest of Red Plum, their early chief, when he received eagle feathers and medicine at the Wheel to protect his people from harm.

Evan and I had trudged three miles through the deep snow to the Medicine Wheel on a winding road, recently improved to allow easier driving access (when there weren’t summer snow storms) all the way to the Wheel. Our hike in paralleled a 10,000-year-old travois trail, part of which was destroyed improving the road. As often happens in road development, increased access resulted in increased travel, and in this case resulted in an increase in the number of visi-

tors. In the past the Wheel had not been commonly known to the non-native world. In 1988 only 10,000 people visited this national historic landmark; after the road was improved, the number soared to 70,000 in 1992.

And how would you say the spirit of the land fared? Thirty feet away from this sacred site were a makeshift parking lot and a port-a-potty. Teepee rings in the area were vandalized or stolen. A seven- foot-high, barbed-wire fence with a locked gate was built around the Wheel to protect it from souvenir hunters who had stolen some of the spoked Wheel’s stones. Thousands of tourists had circled the fence for a view, and a six-inch-deep pathway-trench was the result. Direct access to the Wheel was even re- stricted to native people during ceremonial events, who had to submit a written request for a key to the locked gate.

The day Evan and I visited the Wheel, the fence was adorned with traditional native offerings of rap- tor feathers, sun-bleached bone, and streaming bou- quets of brilliant yellow, indigo blue, and blood red ribbons. But clinging next to these offerings I saw big plastic drink cups, cigarette lighters, and spent condoms, “offerings” of another kind representing whatever a careless tourist could quickly grab from his or her nearby car, and tie onto the fence.

Disturbed by the desecration, a coalition of native peoples asked the Forest Service, the agency responsible for national landmarks, to close the last mile and a half of the road to the Wheel and let visitors approach the Wheel on foot. The hope was that this would deter casual visitors, reduce visitor

was that this would deter casual visitors, reduce visitor The Medicine Wheel site. Photo courtesy of

The Medicine Wheel site. Photo courtesy of Bureau of Land Management.

And how would you say the spirit of the land fared? Thirty feet away from this sacred site were a makeshift parking lot and a port-a-potty.

numbers, and therefore reduce the environmental and spiritual impacts to the Wheel.

reduce the environmental and spiritual impacts to the Wheel. Road approaching the Medicine Wheel. Photo by

Road approaching the Medicine Wheel. Photo by Steve Dutch.

This proved to be the case: after the last sec- tion of the road was closed, only 30,000 visitors came in 1993, in contrast to the 70,000 the year before. In 1994 only 15,000 visitors made the trek on foot the last mile and a half. It seemed it was easy access by car, not cultural interest, that drew so many non-natives to the Wheel.

The Seventh Generation Fund says more about sacred sites and the spirit they believe is there:

“The destruction of these areas, or any significant alterations to their pure or pristine nature, adverse- ly impacts the spiritual effectiveness of the area or the ability of Native people to access the energy there, whether, for example, through the use of cer- emonies or vision quests.” In this belief, restoring these sacred sites renews the ability of the land to speak to all who are attentive enough to hear.

— Thomas R. Petersen is Wildlands CPR’s Development Director.

— to be continued — Look for Part Two in our next issue.

The Citizen Spotlight shares the stories of some of the awesome citizens and organizations we

The Citizen Spotlight shares the stories of some of the awesome citizens and organizations we work with, both as a tribute to them and as a way of highlighting successful strategies and lessons learned. Please e-mail your nomination for the Citizen Spotlight to

Citizen Spotlight on Kim Erion of LKE Corporation

By Cathrine Walters

A t a very young age, Kim Erion often travelled with her family through the Columbia River Gorge, and became absolutely smitten with its every extreme. Kim and her husband (and business part-

ner), Jim, have now lived near the Mt. Hood National Forest on the edge of Green Mountain together for almost eighteen years and enjoy the view out their window to Oregon’s Crown Point. Her roots run deep here — where she was born and raised — and her love and respect for the land shines through in their company’s watershed restoration work.

Kim and her husband both started out as self-employed entrepre- neurs. Jim went into farming and construction, building subdivisions. He also completed early restoration work on Mount St. Helens following the 1980 eruption. Kim went to college and ran a tailoring business, but since starting their own company, LKE Corporation, tailoring has turned into more of a hobby.

In the beginning the two pieced together a sole proprietorship in con- struction. Kim did the bookkeeping and went out on parts runs. In 1993, they incorporated: “We did driveways, streets and subdivisions, and we subcontracted with large companies on major highway projects. But ev- erything was build, build, build, cut, cut, cut, steal, steal, steal, and cheat, cheat, cheat. It was a full time job filing liens against dishonest developers and general contractors.”

They decided to bid on a road decommissioning job, where she dis- covered her passion for repairing the land: she was walking along replant- ing rhododendrons and ferns into the middle of the restored road. It was not required by the contract, but she said it just felt right. On their early projects, Jim usually operated the bulldozer and excavator, but when he left to remove a culvert a few miles away she hopped on the excavator and found instant bliss! She truly enjoyed the feeling of healing the land.

Kim has learned much about taking roads apart. “You have to know how trees fall, be aware of the dangers, be respectful to Mother Nature, and most of all, be humble! You have to know that machines can do good or harm. You have to be able to read the woods and know which snag might help the stream and which one should house a vole or osprey.”

Restoration work takes her, her husband and daughter, and their extended crew throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and South Dakota, carrying out challenging restoration contracts with many different agencies. After restoring much of their own land, they started completing jobs for the state, county and federal government in 1996. “We love the travel; the diversity of the contracts and agencies, the local work forces… mostly it is just being together as a family, the rush of bidding a new area, and the challenge of planning innovative techniques that leave our customers pleased with an extraordinary job.”

leave our customers pleased with an extraordinary job.” Photo courtesy of Kim Erion. Typically, Jim and

Photo courtesy of Kim Erion.

Typically, Jim and the crew complete the first phases of projects: removing large fills, culverts and bridges. Kim then stays behind to complete the final landscape re-contour, “natu- ralize the engineered plan,” inspect the final job, and take photos. She often works alone while the crew works different areas. But working alone, camping for days, hours from the nearest gas station, is nirvana to Kim since she enjoys being out of the fast lane.

She recalls one incident while working alone one day on a grizzly bear habitat restoration project near the Canadian border. “Jim and the crew were at least three miles away. I finished up a full recontour with the excavator, shut the machine down and started walking down

the road back to base camp about a mile away. Suddenly I heard a crash above me! A bear dropped down onto the road right in front of me and grunted loudly. I could feel his breath on my face! Instantly, I threw my arms up, holding my hard hat and lunch cooler into the air, and grunted back equally as loud! He grunted twice and dropped off the road out of sight.” The bear didn’t smell bad, she recalls, and it didn’t seem aggressive. She walked calmly back to camp and sat for a moment, then realized that she had wet her pants. “I cried for about a minute, and then realized what a gift I was given: first, not to be eaten, but second, to look into its eyes and feel its breath on my face. It’s a smell I will never forget and a moment that builds character into who I am each day!”

Kim has lost count of the miles of full road recontours that she has done, but estimates it’s in the hundreds all over Oregon, Washington and Idaho. “Pretty darn close to a thousand miles of roads, and thousands of acres of wet- lands also,” she humbly admits.

Kim and her husband work with other con- servation groups like Ducks Unlimited, Fish First and Oregon Trout. They are active in multiple chapters, attend state fundraisers and put much of their business profit back into conservation. Jim has been involved with Ducks Unlimited for more than 20 years, ever since he grew up under the Pacific Flyway, directly witnessing the diminishing flocks of ducks and geese as well as the decline in salmon in the Columbia and Lewis Rivers.

as the decline in salmon in the Columbia and Lewis Rivers. Photo courtesy of Kim Erion.

Photo courtesy of Kim Erion.

You have to be able to read the woods and know which snag might help the stream and which one should house a vole or osprey.

It is difficult for Kim to answer what her most successful restoration project is be- cause all the jobs they do are precious. She has worked with many amazing scientists and specialists over the years and her intensity and dedication for the work has not changed. But she does recall a few memorable locations along the Olympic, Yosemite and Gifford Pinchot National Forests.

Even with the economic crisis, LKE Corpora- tion is busy now and plans to be into the future. They have hired more workers this year than ever before and the growing interest in restora- tion work has allowed Kim to choose quality people who are as deeply passionate as her to do the right thing on the ground.

She loves her work and is grateful her fam- ily can be together every day on the job. “Our daughter, now 16, grew up learning not to waste anything, to utilize each resource, to repair and reconstruct with respect, to appreciate every- thing and be thankful. Restoration has been our way of life.”

and be thankful. Restoration has been our way of life.” Photo courtesy of Kim Erion. The

Photo courtesy of Kim Erion.

Bibliography Notes summarizes and highlights some of the scientific literature in our 15,000 citation bibliography

Bibliography Notes summarizes and highlights some of the scientific literature in our 15,000 citation bibliography on the physical and ecological effects of roads and off-road vehicles. We offer bibliographic searches to help activists access important biological research relevant to roads. We keep copies of most articles cited in Bibliography Notes in our office library.

Mitigating the Impacts of Roads as a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy

By Adam Switalski and Liane Davis

Change Adaptation Strategy By Adam Switalski and Liane Davis Introduction Climate has changed throughout the history
Change Adaptation Strategy By Adam Switalski and Liane Davis Introduction Climate has changed throughout the history


Climate has changed throughout the history of our planet and species have adapted and persisted over time (Noss 2001). Unlike previous periods of climatic change, though, many species’ ability to adjust has been severely constrained by anthropocentric alterations of many ecosystems, such as habitat loss and fragmentation. It is these additional environmental stressors that make climate change such a challenge for biodiversity conservation. But while humans have increased the conservation challenges associated with climate change, we can also help to alleviate them.

Roads are a ubiquitous feature across North America that have greatly modified aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In this paper we discuss how forest roads and their associated impacts are compound- ing the threats of climate change on fish and wildlife and how decom- missioning and upgrading some forest roads can improve ecosystem resiliency and foster species’ ability to adjust to changing environ- mental conditions.

Climate change impacts on fish and wildlife

There is high certainty that air temperature is increasing around the world (CCSP 2008). In general, stream temperatures are expected to rise as a result of increased air temperatures and decreased ther- mal mixing from snowmelt (Mote et al. 2003). As stream temperatures rise, it is likely that several streams and rivers that currently support salmonids and other cold-water species may become inhospitable, as critical temperature thresholds are breeched (Keleher and Rahel 1996). Such changes are likely to alter distributions, as fish adapted to cool and cold water must migrate in search of more suitable water temperatures (Eaton and Scheller 1996). Furthermore, extreme fluxes in stream temperature may produce thermal barriers that impede fish migration and constrict their range (Bartholow 2005).

Climate change is also predicted to alter stream flows (both peak and low), but impacts will vary based on elevation and snowpack contributions (Hamlet and Lettenmaier 2007). Reduction of summer and fall stream flows and consequent reductions in the length of the overall stream network during the summer dry season are also likely to limit food and habitat availability for juvenile rearing. Increased forest die-back resulting from fire and/or pathogens may further increase stream temperatures by reducing streamside vegetation cover, but also may increase summer low flows in the short-term due to decreased uptake of water by vegetation (Potts 1984); however, the magnitude and duration of such effects is not well understood.

The evidence for global climate change is irrefutable. These photos show the retreat of Muir Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Top photo taken in 1941 (courtesy of U.S. Geological Service) and bottom photo taken in 2004 (by Bruce Molnia, USGS).

An increase in climatic variability is also pre- dicted, resulting in more frequent, extreme storms and increasing intensity of precipitation (Groisman et al. 2005). Increases in high-intensity precipitation and winter flooding pose several significant risks to fish. For example, increased flooding can scour salmon redds, destroying the eggs (Lisle 1989). High flows can also flush rearing juvenile salmonids downstream before they are ready to migrate, poten- tially disrupting their biochemical and physiological development (Shirvell 1994). Another likely out- come of increased flooding and heavy precipitation is an increase in mass-wasting events (e.g., land- slides). Such incidents increase the amount of fine sediment in streams, which has been strongly and negatively correlated to salmonid health, growth, and survival (Newcombe and MacDonald 1991).

Wildlife also face threats driven by temperature and precipitation patterns and changes in disturbance regimes, including changes in food availability, habi- tat, and distribution of competitors and prey (Janetos et al. 2008). For example, grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) food sources may be dramatically altered. In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, grizzly bears depend on winter-killed carrion as a key springtime food. However, recent modeling exercises have predicted a decline of winter-killed carrion due to a substantial reduction in late winter snow- pack (Wilmers and Getz 2005). Additionally, climate change is predicted to reduce the availability of the highly-nutritious white-bark pine (Pinus albicaulis) seeds by accelerating the rate of the white pine blister rust fungus (Cronartium ribicola) spread, competitive replacement by lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), and increasing frequency of stand-replacing wildfires (Koteen 2002).

Intersection of roads and climate change

Climate change is exacerbating the many human-caused impacts that are already leading to species decline. One of the most common and far-reaching an- thropogenic features on the landscape is roads. Roads can affect aquatic systems by increasing stream peak flows by impeding water infiltration and expanding the drainage network (Wemple et al. 1996), increasing surface runoff carrying sedi- ment to streams (Sugdon and Woods 2007), and triggering landslides from culvert or road failures that transport large amounts of sediment and debris to streams (Swanston 1991). Roads can also block or disrupt natural transport of materials such as large wood into streams (Furniss et al. 1991), which is critical to salmonid survival because it increases in-stream habitat complexity and provides off-channel areas of refugia during high flow events (Bilby and Bisson 1998).

Several studies have also documented deleterious impacts of roads on terres- trial wildlife. One simple, but major impact of roads on wildlife is that they facilitate human access. For example, roads allow access to remote grizzly bear habitat re- sulting in avoidance of roads by bears (Mace et al. 1999). In the context of climate change, roads can also adversely affect wildlife habitat by fragmenting landscapes, altering wildlife movement, and acting as a vector for invasive species and plant pathogens (Trombulak and Frissell 2000). Cumulatively, the presence of roads often leads to avoidance and a reduction in available habitat.

Road decommissioning and upgrading as a climate change adaptation strategy

The impacts of climate change and roads on aquatic and terrestrial systems will likely be intensified by their interactions and cumulatively pose more serious threats to many species than either would alone. One adaptation strategy that directly benefits resiliency of many species is decommissioning and upgrading of forest roads. When roads are decommissioned the old roadbeds are ripped and often recontoured to enhance water infiltration (Switalski et al. 2004). Additionally, culverts are removed and natural stream connections and transport processes are restored. This practice lessens risks associated with landslides, erosion of fine sediment, and intensification of peak flows (Madej 2001).

Decommissioning and upgrading roads and thus reducing the amount of fine sediment deposited on salmonid redds can increase the likelihood of egg survival and spawning success (McCaffery et al. 2007). In addition, this would reconnect stream channels and remove barriers such as culverts. Decommissioning roads in riparian areas may provide further benefits to salmon and other aquatic organisms by permitting reestablishment of streamside vegetation, which provides shade and maintains a cooler, more moderated microclimate over the stream (Battin et al. 2007).

For wildlife, road decommissioning can reduce the many stressors associated with roads. Road decommissioning restores habitat by providing security and food

for wildlife. Preliminary results suggest that black bear (Ursus americanus) use

decommissioned roads extensively in central Idaho (A. Switalski in prep.).

tion to providing early successional foods, such as huckleberries, decommissioned roads when seeded with native species can reduce the spread of invasive species (Grant et al. in review).

In addi-

of invasive species (Grant et al. in review). In addi- Converting roads to trails, as in

Converting roads to trails, as in this project on Montana’s Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, can help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Photo by Adam Switalski.

One of the most well documented impacts of climate change on wild- life is a shift in the ranges of species (Parmesan 2006). As animals migrate, landscape connectivity will be increas- ingly important (Holman et al. 2005). Decommissioning roads in key wildlife corridors will improve connectivity and be an important mitigation measure to increase resiliency of wildlife to climate change.


While climate change is the great- est threat of our age, we have the ability to help fish and wildlife adapt to predicted changes. Roads are a major stressor in the environment and decommissioning and upgrading them has the potential to increase ecosystem resiliency.

— Adam is Wildlands CPR’s Science Coordinator and Liane is the Ellsworth Creek Ecologist for The Nature Conservancy.

— continued from previous page —


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removal of forest roads. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 26: 175-190. McCaffery, M., T.A. Switalski, and Lisa Eby. 2007. Effects of road decommissioning on stream habitat characteristics in the South Fork Flathead River, Montana. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 136: 553-561. Newcomb, C.P., and D.D. MacDonald. 1991. Effects of suspended sediments on aquatic ecosystems. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 11: 72-82. Noss, R.F. 2001. Beyond Kyoto: forest management in a time of rapid climate change. Conservation Biology 15(3): 578. Parmesan, C. 2006. Ecological and evolutionary responses to recent climate change. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 37: 637-669. Potts, D.F. 1984. Hydrologic impacts of a large-scale mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) epidemic. Water Resources Bulletin 20: 373-377. Shirvell, C.S. 1994. Effect of changes in the streamflow on the microhabitat use and movements of sympatric juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) in a natural stream. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 51:1644-1652. Sugden, B.D., and S.W. Woods, 2007. Sediment Production From Forest Roads in Western Montana. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA)


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W.R. Meehan, (ed) Influences of Forest and Rangeland Management on Salmonid Habitat. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 19, Bethesda, Maryland. Switalski, T.A., J.A. Bissonette, T.H. DeLuca, C.H. Luce, and M.A. Madej. 2004. Benefits and impacts of road removal. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.


Trombulak, S.C., and C.A. Frissell. 2000. Review of ecological effects of roads on terrestrial and aquatic communities. Conservation Biology 14: 18-30. Wilmers, C.C., and W.M. Getz. 2005. Gray wolves as climate change buffers in Yellowstone. PLoS Biology 3(4): 571-576. Wemple, B.C., J.A. Jones, and G.E. Grant. Channel network extension by logging roads in two basins, western Cascades, Oregon. Water Resources Bulletin 32(6) 1195-



The Road-RIPorter, Summer Solstice 2009

FS Announces Stimulus Projects In early June, the Forest Service announced a list of projects

FS Announces Stimulus Projects

In early June, the Forest Service announced a list of projects to be funded with its share of the federal economic stimulus package. The agency is receiving $1.15 billion in stimulus fund- ing, and their project list includes 106 projects in 31 states. Of the total funds, about $228 million will be used for road maintenance and decommission and watershed restoration. With an estimated $10 billion backlog in road mainte- nance the funds are a small, but significant, step towards addressing the problem.

In an article published in the L.A. Times, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the projects should improve access to forestlands, boost public health and safety and preserve natural resources throughout the country. “The rehabilitation of roads will improve water quality by reducing sediments in nearby streams and help to restore natural resources and habitats for fish in areas impacted by deterioration and erosion of road surfaces,” Vilsack said.

Five Western states will receive more than half the total funds. Here is a breakdown of what we know:


16 projects

$44 million


31 projects

$32 million


23 projects

$31.5 million

Washington 25 projects



21 projects


The majority of the projects in these states fall into two main categories: road decommis- sioning and/or maintenance; and fuels reduction and wildfire protection. Other project types include: watershed, ecosystem and fire restora- tion; noxious weeds & invasive species; repairing and maintaining county roads & bridges; jobs programs, and green infrastructure; education programs; and, fish passage.

Wildlands CPR will be monitoring these proj- ects and will provide tools for citizens to ensure that the money is well spent (see our Field Notes in this issue).

Obama Moves to Protect Roadless Areas

In late May the Obama administration announced a yearlong order to prevent new road construction and development in Inventoried Roadless Areas. The order requires Forest Service officials to seek approval for any such projects from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

President Clinton issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule in 2001; it halted development on nearly 60 million acres of national forest. The rule was supported by conservationists, but challenged by several state governments (including Idaho) and the timber industry. Two federal courts ruled on the issue — one upholding the rule and one striking it down. Both of those decisions have been appealed and the Supreme Court may end up hearing the case.

Meanwhile, President Bush undercut the rule by exempting some ar- eas from protection (including much of Alaska’s Tongass NF), and by allow- ing states to set their own roadless development rules. The current order will now effectively block planned timber sales in the Tongass, but Idaho national forests are essentially exempt because the state has adopted its own roadless area plan.

because the state has adopted its own roadless area plan. Tree planters will be busy with

Tree planters will be busy with the new stimulus projects. Photo by Adam Switalski.

The Road-RIPorter, Summer Solstice 2009


Legacy Roads Citizen Monitoring By Adam Switalski C ongress has created a dedicated fund to

Legacy Roads Citizen Monitoring

By Adam Switalski

C ongress has created a dedicated fund to help improve the Forest Service’s crumbling road system while restoring ecosystem health. The Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Initiative (Legacy Roads) funds projects to decommis-

sion unneeded forest roads, and perform critical maintenance and culvert upgrades on needed forest roads. For many years, this work has been neglected, resulting in a road maintenance backlog estimated at between $5 and $10 billion. The under- maintained roads have reduced forest access and damaged fish and wildlife habitat and clean drinking water supplies.

With millions of dollars dedicated to Legacy Roads each year, we want to en- sure that the Forest Service is using Legacy Roads money as directed by Congress to restore our forest watersheds while maintaining access into popular forest areas. Citizen monitoring is one way to do this.

In this edition of Field Notes we outline some basic monitoring techniques that can be conducted in the office and/or in the field to help improve the effectiveness of restoration on our national forests. The amount and scale of monitoring is up to your group.

Step 1: Look at distribution of money to projects The first step in monitoring Legacy Roads is to download a list of Forest Ser- vice Legacy Roads projects in your area from Wildlands CPR’s project database, found here:

On the right sidebar you will find an Excel file entitled:


you will find an Excel file entitled: Totals_for_FY08_0.xls Members of a University of Montana class pitch

Members of a University of Montana class pitch in as Citizen Monitors on the Clearwater National Forest. Photo by Adam Switalski.

As updated project lists become available in 2009 and beyond, we will add them to this sidebar.

In the spreadsheet, tabs on the bottom depict different Forest Service regions. For example, the Pacific North- west is Region 6. Once you open that tab you will see a spreadsheet showing the type of project that each forest has planned for FY2008, as well as project costs.

Using the spreadsheet, categorize each project expense into the following categories:

• Trail repair or maintenance

• Road repair or maintenance (includ- ing aggregate placement)

• Aquatic organism passage (AOP) National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis or design

• Aquatic organism passage (AOP)

• Road decommissioning NEPA analysis or design

• Road decommissioning

• Data entry, reporting, or monitoring

This information can then be entered into another spreadsheet and put into a graph to get a general idea of what percent of the funding is being spent on road maintenance rather than restoration (for example see Table 1).

While Congress did not tell the For- est Service how to distribute the funds between road decommissioning, culvert repair and critical maintenance, they did allow that the entirety of the 2008 funds and 80 percent of the 2009 funds could be spent on road decommission- ing. Each forest, however, will allocate the money differently between the al- lowable categories. For example, while the Olympic and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests have 52 and 57 percent of their budgets allocated for road de- commissioning respectively, the Gifford Pinchot has only 14 percent dedicated toward road decommissioning.

Additionally, the Gifford Pinchot is spending 71 percent toward road repair and maintenance. This could be a red flag that Legacy Roads money is not being spent in accordance with Congressional direction. Similarly, few California national forests spent funds on decommissioning, but in some instances this may be because they re- ceived ample state funds for decommis- sioning needs. Therefore, the results of this coarse-scale analysis will give you an opportunity to meet with your forest to discuss their prioritization more ef- fectively.

Table 1. Percent of FY 2008 Legacy Roads funds allocated toward different projects on the Olympic National Forest.

Data entry, reporting, or monitoring

Trail repair or maintenance Road repair or


1% 7% maintenance
1% 7% maintenance




or maintenance Road repair or 1% 7% maintenance 5% Road Decommissioning 52% Design for aquatic organism
Road Decommissioning 52%

Design for aquatic organism passage (AOP)


52% Design for aquatic organism passage (AOP) 5% Aquatic organism passage (AOP) 27% Design for road

Aquatic organism

passage (AOP)


52% Design for aquatic organism passage (AOP) 5% Aquatic organism passage (AOP) 27% Design for road

Design for road decommissioning


52% Design for aquatic organism passage (AOP) 5% Aquatic organism passage (AOP) 27% Design for road
passage (AOP) 27% Design for road decommissioning 4% Collecting data in the field. Photo by Adam

Collecting data in the field. Photo by Adam Switalski.

Step 2: Identify a restoration or maintenance project Once you have determined the amount of money going toward decom- missioning, culvert re-pair/upgrade, and road maintenance work on your local forest, it is time to identify an individual project to monitor. Again, using the downloaded spreadsheet, find an on- the ground project that is of interest either because of ecological concerns or because there is a large economic investment by the forest. For example, the Olympic National Forest is allocat- ing $615,000 to the Flat Stewardship

and Flat Fall Out road decommissioning project where 7.8 miles of roads are go- ing to be decommissioned. This is over half their budget and may provide a great opportunity for citizen monitoring.

Step 3: Obtain contract/NEPA documents for project Once you have identified what project you are interested in monitoring, you should contact your local Forest Service office to obtain the contract and/or NEPA documentation for the project to identify the ecological concerns and prescription for treatment. In this document you should be able to determine, for example, why the road was slated for decommissioning or why a culvert is being upgraded. You should also obtain detailed maps of the project area.

Step 4: Begin field monitoring Now it’s time for fun! With the background work taken care of, it is time to go into the field and see what the restoration work looks like first-hand. You will want to bring data sheets (citizen monitoring cover sheet, photo data sheet), a clip- board, pen, and digital camera. A GPS unit is helpful for locating sites and to record the location of photos. With these instruments alone and some training you should be able to determine if the road was decommissioned according to the prescrip- tion. Additionally, you will be able to identify if there have been any major prob- lems with the work. For example, there may be culverts that were not removed, or areas where weeds have taken over. With information like this we can get a better idea of the success of these efforts and provide the Forest Service with important information to improve their practices.

Datasheets for Legacy Roads citizen monitoring can be found online at:

— Adam is Science Coordinator for Wildlands CPR

S pring is finally in the air, with bluebirds nesting in the green hills around

S pring is finally in the air, with bluebirds nesting in the green hills around town and rivers chock full and muddy with runoff. We’ve been off and running on numerous projects as well, and we expect to complete three over the next few

weeks. For more details, read on…

New Reports Available

Six Strategies for Success

This winter we rehired contract researcher Michele Archie to update our ORV enforcement Report, “Six Strategies for Success.” The new report includes everything from the 2007 report, plus dozens of new examples and tactics. Incorporating information from a host of state laws and studies completed over the past two years, the updated Six Strategies report provides even more useful in- formation than the original, and will be an excellent resource for promot- ing new and improved enforcement strategies. It’s available electroni-

cally only; to download a copy, go to:


FOIA Report

Contract researcher Greg Peters is finalizing a long-awaited analysis of the information we received in 2007 from our 2005 Freedom of Informa- tion Act request to the 85 western national forests. We expect to have the full report and several resources published on our website shortly after this Road-RIPorter hits your inbox. For a sneak preview, check out our cover story! Greg finished the project just in time to start running our Citizen Science program on the Clearwater National Forest for the summer – thanks Greg!

Political Economy of Watershed Restoration

Wildlands CPR’s Restoration Re- search Associate Josh Hurd has spent the last year completing a cutting-edge analysis of the political economy of watershed restoration. The result is a six-part report that covers topics rang- ing from the regulatory and funding en- vironments of watershed restoration, to public perceptions about, and economic benefits of, watershed restoration. In addition, he reviewed financial mecha- nisms for funding such work and the im- portance of creating a restoration trade association. We’ll be posting all of these reports on our website by mid July.

Have you checked out our website lately???

In case you haven’t, you should – we’ve been updating it almost daily with the latest news and opinions related to roads, restoration and off-road vehicles. To keep up to date, go to our home page and check out the section called “Related News.” We highlight the most interesting news stories from around the US (and sometimes the world) related to watershed restoration and off-road vehicles. We’re also posting to our blog 3-4 times a week, with analysis of news stories, updates and analysis on agency actions, photo reports and more. Here’s a few sample headlines from the past few weeks to give you a sense of what you can find: Citizen science at work on the Clearwater National Forest; Report from the Paria River (about the ORV protest ride up Paria Canyon in UT); First FS stimulus projects posted; Closing roads for griz doesn’t have to be controversial; and lots more.


Wildlands CPR wants to extend a big thank you to the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Mountaineers, Brainerd, Cinnabar and Norcross Founda- tions, and Patagonia for grants to support our work. In addition, we also want to send a big thanks to Kathi Nickel and Cindy Jimmerson for setting up several fund- raisers for Wildlands CPR this spring and summer – you two are awesome!!! Many thanks, too, to all of you who’ve sent in donations during the past quarter – we can’t do all this critical work without your help!

– we can’t do all this critical work without your help! Photo by Paul Shively. 22

Photo by Paul Shively.

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A near-full moon rises over the desert. Photo by Laurel Hagen.
A near-full moon rises over the desert. Photo by Laurel Hagen.
near-full moon rises over the desert. Photo by Laurel Hagen. “The National Forest System has a

“The National Forest System

has a transportation system

that is not suited to its modern

needs and requires realignment

to ‘right-size’ the system for the

future.” — Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell

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