Carolyn Napper, Soils Scientist
Forest road decommissioning techniques are a key tool in effective watershed restoration.
Land managers have been involved in road decommissioning over the past three decades, yet
there is little consistency in road decommissioning monitoring. This document provides tools
for developing and implementing a monitoring plan based on the specific needs and unique
ecological conditions of each forest.
Several national forests have developed road decommissioning monitoring plans. This report
builds on their hard work and careful thought to creating a successful monitoring plan.
Instead of advocating one method or process for each monitoring project and budget, this
document enables selection of the monitoring technique(s) for each situation. Monitoring
forms and protocols are attached that can help a district or forest interdisciplinary team
design a road decommissioning monitoring program for their area.
In the late 1970s, Redwood National Park (RNP) started to decommission unneeded roads.
Park geologists tried to reduce the adverse environmental effects of roads and road crossings
including erosion, mass wasting, and sedimentation. Techniques to decommission roads evolved
over time as the effectiveness of the treatments was monitored. Treatments changed from hand
tools and revegetation to dozers and excavators. The same equipment that created the road was
used to decommission the road.
At the same time, national forests across the country had the same problems and road
decommissioning started. Flood events that occurred during the 1980s and 1990s brought to light
the vulnerability of the transportation system and the adverse impacts that result from poorly
designed and located roads.
Road decommissioning is used to reduce chronic sediment delivery, restore hillslope hydrology,
and reduce impacts to aquatic, riparian, and terrestrial ecosystems of roads crossings. The
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service units use different levels of
decommissioning treatments to reduce hazards with roads. USDA Forest Service personnel have
learned which decommissioning treatments are effective based on local climatic conditions,
geology, and soil type. Forest interdisciplinary teams are responsible for developing
monitoring plans that can evaluate the effectiveness of decommissioning treatments.
Before Road Decommissioning
After Road Decommissioning