2D – Road Management

Management Measure

  1. Avoid using roads for timber hauling or heavy traffic during wet or thaw periods on roads not designed and constructed for these conditions.
  2. Evaluate the future needs for a road and close roads that will not be needed. Leave closed roads and drainage channels in a stable condition to withstand storms.
  3. Remove drainage crossings and culverts if there is a reasonable risk of plugging or failure from lack of maintenance.
  4. After harvest, close and stabilize temporary spur roads and seasonal roads to control and direct water away from the roadway. Remove all temporary stream crossings.
  5. Inspect roads to determine the need for structural maintenance. Conduct maintenance practices, when conditions warrant, including cleaning and replacement of deteriorated structures and erosion controls, grading or seeding of road surfaces and, in extreme cases, slope stabilization or removal of road fills where necessary to maintain structural integrity.
  6. Conduct maintenance activities, such as dust abatement, so that contaminants or pollutants are not introduced into surface waters.
  7. Properly maintain permanent stream crossings and associated fills and approaches to reduce the likelihood (a) that stream overflow will divert onto roads, and (b) that fill erosion will occur if the drainage structures become obstructed.

Management Practices

Sound planning, design, and construction measures often reduce road maintenance needs after construction. Minimum maintenance is required of roads constructed with a minimum width in stable terrain and with frequent grade reversals or dips. Unfortunately, older roads remain one of the greatest sources of sediment from managed forestlands. After harvesting, roads are often forgotten, and erosion problems might go unnoticed until after severe resource damage has occurred (USEPA, 2002).

The following are practices that can be used to minimize the adverse environmental impact of logging roads:

  • Prescribed maintenance
    At a minimum of once per year, prescribed maintenance should be performed to control erosion on permanent, seasonal roads, landings, and drainage structures that are not abandoned.
  • Abandonment of temporary roads
    Temporary roads and associated landings should be abandoned upon completion of timber operations in accordance with existing CDF regulations.
  • Bridges, drainage structures, and berms
    Bridges and drainage structures should be kept open to the unrestricted passage of water. Drainage structures not adequate to carry water from the 50 year flood level should be removed in accordance with CDF regulations by the first day of the winter period before the flow of water exceeds their capacity if operations are conducted during the winter period, or by the end of timber operations (whichever occurs first). Properly functioning drainage structures on roads that existed before timber operations need not be removed (CDF, 2003). Trash racks or similar devices can be installed where needed at culvert inlets in a manner that minimizes culvert blockage. Roadside berms should be removed from logging roads or breached before the beginning of the winter period, except where needed to control erosion. Drainage ditches should be maintained to allow free flow of water and minimize soil erosion. Each drainage structure and trash rack should be maintained and repaired as needed to prevent blockage and to provide adequate carrying capacity. Where not present, new trash racks can be installed if there is evidence that woody debris is likely to significantly reduce flow through a drainage structure.
  • Stable road surfaces
    Road surfaces should be treated as necessary during timber operations to prevent excessive loss of road surface materials using methods such as rocking, watering, chemically treating, asphalting, or oiling.
  • Slope protection
    Actions should be taken to prevent failures of cut, fill, or sidecast slopes. This may involve installing or renewing soil stabilization treatments on road or landing cuts, fills, or sidecast slopes when such treatment could minimize surface erosion that threatens the beneficial uses of water (CDF, 2003).


  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Resource Management Program. Maintaining the sustainability of California’s natural resources is the goal of the CDF Resource Management Program. The Department achieves this goal by administering State and federal forestry assistance programs for landowners, demonstrating sound management practices on eight demonstration State forests, enforcing the California Forest Practice Act on all nonfederal timberlands, providing research and educational outreach to the public on forest pests such as Sudden Oak Death, and coordinating efforts for fuel reduction to reduce the risk of fire and improve the quality of California’s ecosystems.
  • USDA Forest Service adopted a new road management policy in January 2001, which directs the agency to maintain a safe, environmentally sound road network that is responsive to public needs and affordable to manage. T he policy includes a science-based roads analysis process designed to help managers make better decisions on roads. The USDA Forest Service is looking at ways to make the road management policy work better and is conducting an internal review of the policy.

Information Resources

  • FRAP, SEDMODL was applied to the Caspar Creek watershed on the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. The model was run on Caspar Creek to evaluate the contribution of roads as part of the basin’s sediment budget and to assist in identifying roads that produce relatively high amounts of sediment.
  • Geomorphic Impacts of Culvert Replacement and Removal these guidelines are used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in culvert replacement and removal projects, and are recommended practices for the design and construction of stream crossings. These guidelines serve to assist with any culvert-related endangered species consultation requirements. Compliance with these guidelines should help minimize or avoid impacts during project construction activities and result in long-term benefits to threatened or endangered species.
  • Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, Handbook for Forest and Ranch Roads. This document is a guide and field manual for anyone involved with roads in forests or on ranches. It contains many helpful photographs and illustrations, charts, and tips on approaching road building from planning through construction, maintenance, and closure. This publication can be requested by calling the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District (Telephone: (707) 468-9223).
  • USDA Forest Service Roads Analysis: Informing Decisions About Managing the National Forest Transportation System. This is a complete science-based roads analysis designed to inform management decisions about the benefits and risks of constructing new roads in unroaded areas; relocating, stabilizing, changing the standards of, or decommissioning, unneeded roads; access issues; and increasing, reducing, or discontinuing road maintenance.
  • USDA Forest Service, Road Management Policy in 2001, the USDA Forest Service published a final policy governing the national forest transportation system. This Web site provides links to the policy and interim direction revising the policy.
  • USDA Forest Service, Water/Road Interaction Technology Series offers an excellent discussion of the relationship between forest roads and drainage.


CDF. 2003. California Forest Practice Rules. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Resource Management, Forest Practice Program, Sacramento, CA.

Harr, R.D., and R.A. Nichols. 1993. Stabilizing forest roads to help restore fish habitats: A northwest Washington example. Fisheries 18(4): 18-22.

USEPA. 2002. National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Forestry. Pre-Final Draft. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.

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