The Case for Destroying Old Forest Roads

By Ben Goldfarb
The Smithsonian Magazine
February 13, 2024
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, US West

Adam Switalski

…The Montana hillside on which ecologist Adam Switalski and I now stood was a prime example of an unglamorous yet powerful tool for protecting our biodiversity—road removal, commonly known as road decommissioning. In the early 2000s, the Forest Service brought heavy machinery to this old logging road, ripping it up to permit new grasses, shrubs and trees to sprout from the stirred earth. Waist-high thimbleberry bushes now covered the slope, and Douglas fir seedlings plunged roots deep into the loosened soil. It seemed improbable that 30-ton logging trucks had ever trundled through here along a ribbon of asphalt-hard dirt. …Over the last two decades, Switalski has guided road restoration’s best practices and demonstrated its value for species as diverse as black bears and cutthroat trout. 

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