The future of forest roads depends on you

Road 1230 in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Photo courtesy of Mt. Baker-Snoqulamie National Forest

Call me crazy, but as a planner by trade, I often get excited about new ways to get the public involved in community outreach events.

Whether it’s trying a new facilitation technique or developing a public involvement plan, I always welcome the challenge and look forward to the result. 

That’s why the Sustainable Roads Cadre is so exciting — it’s truly a new way to leverage relationships to engage the public and gather valuable information about how people use roads on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington state. The Cadre is an informal coalition of conservation, timber, motorized and non-motorized recreational interests and others that have come together to help the Forest Service learn about how the public uses its road system. The Wilderness Society is a founding member. With the Cadre’s leadership and help, the Forest Service will hold eight workshops from June to October to better understand how people use and value the forest. Without the Cadre, the Forest Service would only be able to do a fraction of this work, missing out on an important opportunity to learn from the public.

The harsh reality is the Forest Service not only has limited resources to gather public information, it has a fraction of the resources needed to maintain important infrastructure.  Of the 2,500 miles of road on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the Forest Service can only maintain a quarter of the road network because of budget constraints. That’s why they need to know how the public uses the roads, what they value, what roads they’d like to see open, and what roads they’d like to close. This information will help inform the Forest Service’s Sustainable Roads Analysis, which will recommend a more sustainable road system that best accommodates current uses and provides for safe travel and resource protection.

It’s genuinely exciting that the Forest Service is embracing a new way of engaging and gathering information from the public. Given shrinking federal budgets, the Forest Service needs as much help as possible to make sure resources are directed to the right places. The Sustainable Roads process harnesses the power of collaboration through the Sustainable Roads Cadre to gather important information from the public to help the Forest Service make more informed decisions in the future. The Wilderness Society looks forward to helping make these workshops a success.

More information can be found online, where you can view maps of the forest as well as complete an online questionnaire