Roads of all kinds from highways to gravel single lane routes provide valuable access to the landscape of Cascadia.  Access is needed for land and species management, recreation, and enjoyment.  Roads also can pose natural resource risks to the landscape as well from reducing watershed health and security habitats for wildlife to providing vectors that facilitate the spread of invasive plants.  Identifying a balanced sustainable road system that provides needed access to our landscape while ensuring healthy watersheds and habitats is a priority that our Partner Forum has identified.  In identifying a system is sustainable over time, climate change must be considered.

Climate sensitive questions that can be addressed in access management planning may include:

  • Do you already see impacts to your road system now from climate changes (i.e. rain on snow events in recurring locations causing flood damage)?
  • How do projections for impacts to hydrology from a changing climate interact with the existing road system?  Where are there existing vulnerabilities to the road system from hydrologic events or interactions, and where are these anticipated to be exacerbated with climate change?  What recommended action can help mitigate the risk from upgraded culverts and bridges to re-location to decommissioning?
  • How does the existing road system interact with adaptation needs of aquatic and terrestrial species on the landscape including the current health of their habitat contributing to resilient populations (i.e. contribution of sediment to spawning rivers, reduction of security habitat for elk, fragmentation of habitats)?  What actions can reduce the impact from a wildlife overpass on an interstate to relocation out of a high priority riparian area to restoration?
  • Are there anticipated future needs for access for land and resource management emphasized with climate change projects for your landscape (i.e. anticipated long-term fuels reduction and maintenance)?

Road blowout from flood event near Blewett Pass. Credit: WSDOT

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