Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Forest Service identifies "Roads of Concern" in Idaho; works to mitigate safety issues

Typical sign the Forest Service is installing along forest roads
to increase safety for OHV users and motorists (courtesy USFS)

Hi all,

The U.S. Forest Service has been busy working on its "roads of concern" program in the last year to identify the most hazardous roads, install mitigation measures such as safety signage and trimming brush to improve visibility, and in a few instances, close a few sections of highly traveled roads that were deemed too hazardous to leave open to off-highway vehicle use.

This blog provides an update on the program. Just about anybody who has driven a vehicle on narrow national forest dirt roads has probably had a close call with another motor vehicle, not to mention an OHV rider cruising around a blind corner. This is the concern with this issue -- trying to avoid collisions between motor vehicles and OHVs.

The roads-of-concern issue came to the fore when the Idaho Legislature passed a law in 2009 that allowed unlicensed drivers to operate OHVs on national forest system roads as long as they had parental supervision. Previously, a driver's license was required for OHV users to operate OHVs on national forest roads. Fearing for the safety of young, unlicensed drivers operating OHVs on national forest roads used by cars and trucks, the Forest Service began a review of roads of concern in early 2011.

In the 2011 session, the Idaho Legislature passed a new law requiring that unlicensed drivers who wish to operate an OHV on national forest roads must complete an OHV safety course first. The law also clarified that youths on OHVs with parental supervision must be riding within 300 feet of an adult. The passage of that law, which was supported by the Idaho Recreation Council, eased the Forest Service's concerns about unlicensed OHV riders on forest roads, officials said.

Statewide, there are 7,700 miles of forest roads that are used by motor vehicles and OHVs. For the roads of concern process, the Forest Service evaluated 2,500 miles of roads in all eight of our national forests in Idaho.

The Payette National Forest issued a press release last week indicating that it had completed mitigation activities on 80.4 miles of mixed-use forest roads out of 271 miles identified, including safety signage and brushing to improve sight-lines. Additional mitigation work is scheduled for 83.3 miles of roads next summer. Two roads that restrict OHV use, the paved South Fork of the Salmon River road and paved section of the Goose Creek Road, will remain closed.

Here's a map that identified roads of concern on the Payette forest's east side and west side.
  • The Boise National Forest identified 359 miles of roads of concern and carried out mitigation activities on 77.6 miles of roads so far, with 57 miles remaining for next field season. Here's a map of the Boise forest's roads of concern.
  • The Caribou-Targhee National Forest identified 334 miles of roads of concern and did mitigation work on 201 miles of roads last summer. It plans to do more mitigation work on 89 miles of roads next summer. In August, the Caribou-Targhee announced the closure of 19.5 miles of forest roads to OHV use on four road segments, two of which had been closed previously.

    "The purpose of this order is to protect the safety of the public," said Caribou-Targhee Supervisor Brent Larson. "Current use on these roads includes commercial truck traffic and passenger vehicles both operating in excess of 50 mph. This order is to restrict off-highway vehicle use where current mixed use creates unsafe or dangerous operating conditions."

  • The Salmon-Challis National Forest identified 299 miles of roads of concern, and 102 miles that were considered high-risk. Forest officials plan to install signage and cut brush on the 102 miles of roadway next summer. Here's a map of the Salmon-Challis roads of concern.
  • The Sawtooth National Forest identified two miles of roadway that needed safety signage in the Minidoka District; that work has been completed.
  • The Clearwater National Forest identified 453 miles of roads of concern, and treated some of them with mitigation measures last summer. More details are yet to come. Here's a map of the east side of the Clearwater's roads of concern, and the west side.
  • The Nez Perce National Forest identified 735 miles of roads of concern. More details are yet to come. Here's a map of the east side of the Nez Perce's roads of concern, and the west side.
  • The Panhandle National Forest identified 151 miles of roads of concern. More details are yet to come. Here are three maps of the roads identified -- north zone, central zone and south zone.
If you have questions about the roads of concern process, please follow up with any of the national forests mentioned above to get the details. Thank you.