Nearly 53,000 miles of forest road have been inventoried and improved on state and private lands to restore fish habitat, resulting in removing or replacing more than 8,100 of stream blockages, opening nearly 6,200 miles of fish habitat.

Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plans (RMAPs) Protect Fish Habitat

Most large forest landowners have submitted their plans to the DNR and have been practicing new methods since 2001. As of June 2018, with both small and large landowners, 256 RMAPs and 15,971 RMAP checklists have been completed for large and small landowners respectively, covering nearly 53,000 miles of forest road.

The results are nearly 6,200 miles of fish habitat has been opened by removing or replacing more than 8,100 stream blockages. All forest landowners are required to complete their road and culvert improvements by 2021. The investment made so far is $333 million for state and private land, an important investment to the future of Washington’s natural resources. To learn more go to Forests & Fish Law.

Improved Road Maintenance and Construction Practices Focus on “Worst First”

One of the most prominent aspects of responsible forest management is demonstrated by the new methods of road and culvert construction being practiced by private forest landowners. Washington’s landmark Forests & Fish Law prompted this change through Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plans, or RMAPs. Forest landowners are required to improve their forest roads to protect public resources, including water, fish, and wildlife habitat. Improved road maintenance and construction practices reduce or eliminate runoff and fine sediment being delivered into streams, which can degrade water quality and fish habitat.

Forest landowners, both industrial and non-industrial, are required to submit their own RMAP to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) outlining their plans to properly abandon or stabilize existing forest roads no longer in use and improve standards on how new roads are to be built. Work must show progress over time, and be prioritized by the “worst first” to give the most benefits to public resources early in the period. Road maintenance is required to prevent potential or actual damage to public resources, such as disconnecting road drainage from delivering sediment to streams and removing any artificial structures that block fish passage.

RMAP Strategies Meet the Special Needs of Each Watershed

Tailoring each RMAP strategy to a particular geography adaptive management allows forest landowners to meet the special needs of each watershed while continually improving the standards of road and culvert construction.

One of the outcomes that the Forests & Fish Law seeks is to minimize the possibility of forest roads being catastrophically washed downstream due to heavy flooding. Therefore, culverts and bridges are being enlarged, new roads techniques are being used, and old culverts and stream passages that pose a risk of failure are being re-engineered to withstand a 100-year flood.

Other practices include building roads across streams at a perpendicular angle, not one that is parallel to the stream. This minimizes the area of road surface that can contribute sediment to streams. New cross drain techniques will divert run-off from ditches onto the forest floor, and sediment traps are used to stop sediment before it reaches a stream.

Different strategies are being employed when a road is graded or sloped. A road surface might be crowned, with a high spot mid-road, which allows the water to run off to either side, as it would on the pitched roof of a home. Where it is practical and safe, a road might be out-sloped to subtlety tilt the road surface toward the downhill side for better drainage.

Legislature Helps the Small Family Forester Pay the Bills

To help small family forest landowners with the financial impact of RMAPs, the Washington Legislature passed House Bill 1095 in 2003 which created the Family Forest Fish Passage Program. This program provides up to 100% funding and assistance to fix fish-blocking structures. Since 2003, 461 barriers have been eliminated resulting in 1,001 miles of fish habitat being reconnected.

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