Carbon Storage from Revegetating Unneeded Forest Service Roads

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An overlooked opportunity to sequester carbon on National Forests rests with its massive road system.

Preliminary analysis by TWS has indicated that returning unneeded Forest Service roads back to a natural state would be equivalent to revegetating an area larger than Rhode Island. We estimate that carbon storage from decommissioning and revegetating unneeded roads on our national forests is 39.5 — 48.5 million metric tons. To put this into perspective, the additional carbon stored by road reclamation would be equivalent to removing 7.2 — 8.8 million cars from use for one year. Or, locking up in a garage for two solid years every car, truck, SUV, and motorcycle in Colorado!

This briefing memo provides an analysis, by region, of the potential for carbon sequestration if unneeded roads were ripped and reseeded or obliterated.

Along with climate change, the Forest Service’s road system is arguably the biggest ecological impediment to healthy forests. It is well known that right-sizing the Forest Service’s road system would have many fiscal and environmental benefits. In terms of climate change, right-sizing the road system may be thought of as a management approach to help forest ecosystems adapt to changing conditions. However, restoring and revegetating unneeded roads would also assist with climate change mitigation.

We believe that a national initiative to right-size the Forest Service’s road system should be a part of the United State’s strategy to address climate change. It would be part of the solution and help with the response. Read this briefing memo for a regional breakdown and recommendations policy makers should consider.

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