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Individual Highlight

Comprehensive information about road best management practices effectiveness helps protect water quality on forest lands

Photo of Gravel application to a newly constructed forest road to protect the road surface from erosion, and woody material from the road right-of-way positions as a windrow on the fillslope (right side of photo) to trap any sediment transported off the road. Gravel application to a newly constructed forest road to protect the road surface from erosion, and woody material from the road right-of-way positions as a windrow on the fillslope (right side of photo) to trap any sediment transported off the road. Snapshot : Sediment is the most common pollutant associated with forests, and roads are the most common sources of sediment in forests. Best management practices (BMPs) are designed to control erosion from roads and protect receiving water quality. To achieve those results, Forest Service scientists compiled a comprehensive synthesis that summarized the effectiveness of road BMPs for forest managers and land owners.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Edwards, Pamela 
Research Location : Parsons, WV
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1242

Summary

Roads are integral to forest use and forest management. They provide access for a myriad of uses, including recreation, wildlife management, timber management, minerals extraction, and many other activities; however, because of their design, they restrict water infiltration, concentrate overland runoff, and intercept subsurface drainage. All of these factors contribute to increasing runoff, erosion, and sediment transport, with the ultimate result commonly being negative impacts to water quality and aquatic health from elevated inputs of sediment into receiving surface waters. Best management practices (BMPs) are tools and techniques that reduce erosion and sediment transport. Since roads are the most common sources of sediment in forests, most forestry BMPs are implemented on forest roads. Across the nation, there are dozens of types of BMPs and hundreds of ways those BMPs are applied, but little information had been compiled for land owners and land managers to summarize and compare the effectiveness of similar BMPs or BMPs with the same intended outcome. Forst Service researchers compiled and published what is probably the comprehensive synthesis of the literature ever written on the effectiveness of forest road BMPs. National forest resource specialists and engineers are among the major users of the literature synthesis, particularly during planning and resource impact analysis in the National Environmental Protection Act, or NEPA, process.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • San Dimas Technology and Development Center, Washington Office Engineering
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency