Friday, August 26, 2011

Following the tracks: 3. Logging or spur roads

Logging or spur roads provide access to the harvest block for logging or stand tending. This road was constructed after the introduction of forest practice standards in the 1990's. Water bars were installed when the road was deactivated after logging to reduce erosion. Although water bars were installed to divert storm water flow off the road, there is substantial erosion of the road surface. Water bars could be considered a successful treatment because the foot deep erosion could otherwise have been three to six feet deep.

Deactivation of logging roads by installing water bars is a technical symptomatic fix for a larger systemic problem. This human sign at the start of a logging or spur road bears witness to a problem of deteriorating logging roads in BC.

This sign had been in place for a few years and it was no longer possible to drive on the road. BC has tens of thousands of kilometers of deteriorating forest roads. This means that there is considerable loss of access infrastructure for the sustainable management of forests. Decaying forest roads can cause erosion or landslides and negative effects on water quality and fish. The source of the problem is not in the technical ability to locate, construct or maintain forest roads. Rather it is a systemic problem that has its origins in the tenure system of timber harvesting rights. To secure access to timber allocations forest companies submit plans for road construction and harvesting for a short term planning horizon of approximately 5 years. Once regeneration is established, the obligations of the forest company in the harvest area have been fulfilled. The result is thousands of kilometers of forest road that receive little or no maintenance. The bureaucratic term is the euphemistic "non status road" meaning no one is responsible for its stewardship. The planning of harvest blocks on a short term basis is not conducive to systematic road developments comprising main forest roads, branch or feeder roads that connect to many blocks. It is not uncommon to find a pattern of forest road development comprising a main forest road with a series of logging roads that punch uphill with little or no branch roads. Roads developed in this manner are usually steeper than in a system of branch roads connecting to logging roads. Steep roads are prone to erosion and decay.

Although BC claims to be practicing sustainable forest management, its legal and institutional framework of harvesting rights enables forest companies to reduce their stewardship responsibilities to zero after harvested areas are regenerated. The end result is a decaying forest access infrastructure.

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