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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

U.S. Forest Service Transportation Resiliency Guidebook: Addressing Climate Change Impacts on U.S. Forest Service Transportation Assets

Forest Service Transportation Resiliency Guidebook Cover (Forest Service photo)

The nearly 200 million acres of public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service are susceptible to wide-ranging climate change impacts in every region of the country. In addition to impacts that directly affect its lands, such as an increase in wildfires and tree mortality due to drought and higher temperatures, climate change also poses impacts to the roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure needed to access and travel within Forest Service lands.

Increasingly, nearby communities rely on this transportation infrastructure to support the transport of tourists and local visitors to sites within National Forests and Grasslands as well as to access economic development opportunities such as timber harvest sites. When a road is out of commission, it impacts not only Forest Service staff but also visitors and the local economy of gateway communities. Although much work has been done to characterize climate change impacts to the Forests themselves, less has been done to analyze impacts to transportation infrastructure in the Forests.

In 2016, the Forest Service asked the Volpe Center’s Public Lands Team to help develop a guidebook to provide the field with a process to assess and address climate change impacts on FS transportation assets at the local and regional levels. A working group of Volpe Center and Forest Service staff met monthly to guide the development of the guidebook and reviewed each section of the guidebook as they were completed. To develop the content and base it in practice, select Forest Service field staff were contacted and consulted to understand their issues, needs, and ideas to address climate change on their transportation networks.

The guidebook is intended to strike the balance between being specific enough to be implementable and flexible enough to accommodate a variety of needs and challenges. The target audience is Forest Service staff at the Forest or Regional level who are charged with addressing climate change considerations in transportation systems planning.

The guidebook provides two major frameworks for staff to use: one to identify climate change vulnerabilities within the Forest Service transportation network and the other to reduce transportation vulnerability to climate change. Once a full draft of the guidebook was ready, Volpe Center and Forest Service staff met at the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina to apply its frameworks in the field. While effective, the group made a few improvements to the frameworks and issued a final version of the guidebook a few months later in the summer of 2018.

Final Report, September 2018:

U.S. Forest Service Transportation Resiliency Guidebook: Addressing Climate Change Impacts on U.S. Forest Service Transportation Assets

Last updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2019