Thursday, August 18, 2011

Following the tracks: 1. Main Forest Roads

If you want to find out about wildlife you can follow their tracks to learn more about their habits. About 20 years ago, I accompanied a wildlife biologist on the track of a Grizzly Bear on the steep slope above a coastal inlet or fiord. We went on a series of circular loops on the steep slopes for most of the morning. These circular loops escaped the attention of the bear biologist since he was focused on details such as the contents of bear droppings. We thought that we were observing a bear, but the bears movements indicate that he was making the loops to observe us.

In this series of blogs we will track humans and their activities in BC's public forests and try to make some sense of the behavior. The hoof tracks in our case are wheel tracks and we build forest roads for our mechanical transportation devices. If we head for the forest, up a main valley we find that the people in BC's forests know how to build a good main forest road. The road will have good alignment, 2 lanes adequate ditches and drainage and a gravel surface. Main forest roads are the transportation arteries in the forest and a good road reduces log transportation costs in the long term.

If you drive on a main forest road be prepared to meet a logging truck.

Remember that the logging truck has you outnumbered in terms of momentum by 50 to 100 times and drive defensively.

Expect one at every corner, realize that the gravel surface is not like a paved road. The gravel may be loose in dry summer conditions and dust from traffic movement can obscure vision. Slow down and pull over and give the truck the road. A truck may have some extra long logs that can sweep another vehicle on the outside of a curve off the road.

Efficient transportation is the motive behind good quality main forest roads in BC. The BC Forest Service built some main forest roads in the 1950's and 1960's. Forest companies have also built many main forest roads to a high standard.

While the public will react to clear cutting as man's foot print in the forest, the heaviest footprint is the forest roads. Harvesting once in 80 to 120 years is a relatively temporary and low intensity act of cultivation on the land. Road building is a higher intensity impact. On a well built forest road, this impact is limited to the loss of a small percentage of productive forest area. However, a forest road that is poorly located built and maintained can cause considerable soil loss through erosion or landslide. The eroded soil usually ends up in streams and rivers causing damage and reduced water quality and fish. Even a foot trail in a protected area or park can cause long term erosion or stability problems.

Conclusion We know how to locate and build good quality forest roads in BC. Main or arterial forest roads meet a high standard because we are motivated to reduce transportation costs.

The next blog will follow the tracks off the main forest road

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