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This Page Updated 01/09/2002   

News & Information > Fact Sheet

News Releases - Speeches & Testimony

National Forest System Facts

1. The forest transportation system is extensive and diverse; it includes an estimated 380,000 miles of Forest Service roads. Public roads, such as State and county roads, and private roads maintained by others on National Forest System lands, also exist.

a. Approximately one-fourth (22 percent) of all Forest Service roads serve passenger car use.

b. Over one-half (55 percent) of all Forest Service roads are maintained for high-clearance vehicle use.

c. Approximately one-fourth (23 percent) of all Forest Service roads are closed to highway use by the public. Closed roads may be used for a variety of recreation uses, and for forest administration and protection.

d. Currently, Forest Service inventories have identified at least 60,000 miles of unclassified roads including temporary roads and roads that were never planned, built, or maintained to safety, service, and environmental standards. It is anticipated that future inventories will verify the existence of substantially more miles of unclassified roads.

e. More than 7,000 bridges on Forest Service roads exist; three-fourths of these are on the roads serving passenger car use.

f. In 1998, new construction of Forest Service roads was 215 miles or .06 percent of the total Forest Service road system. New construction has trended downward annually from 2,310 miles in 1988.

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2. While a significant portion of the 192 million acres of the National Forest System is roaded, a significant and ecologically critical portion remains unroaded.

a. Some 34.7 million acres are currently designated as wilderness; approximately 6 million acres were proposed for wilderness designation in forest plans.

b. The National Forest System has an estimated 50 million acres of roadless areas are inventoried through national roadless area review in the 1970s (RARE II) or through subsequent regional and local forest planning activities.

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3. Current funding is inadequate to maintain all the existing roads to intended safety, service, and environmental standards to permit efficient and safe use, while mitigating adverse environmental impacts.

a. The Forest Service has available only about 20 percent of funds necessary to fully maintain Forest Service roads to intended safety, service, and environmental standards. As a result, roads not fully maintained become restricted to use by high clearance vehicles or are gated.

b. The backlog of deferred road maintenance and reconstruction needs on Forest Service roads is $8.4 billion. This backlog is due to the age of the arterial and collector roads (three-fourths are over 50-years old), heavy use, and the lack of regular maintenance.

c. From 1991 to 1997, the Forest Service decommissioned an average of 2,700 miles of roads per year.

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