If a forest road enables logging to make productive use of federal land, that’s good. If a forest road enables thinning that reduces fire danger and smoke to neighboring communities, that’s also a good thing.

But forest roads are often one of the bogeymen of environmentalists. Forest roads, they say, damage forest habitat and streams. But that simple assumption about forest road damage needs to be examined carefully.

For instance, a new Oregon State University study found that logging roads in the Oregon Coast Range aren’t sending enough sediment into streams to harm fish and aquatic insects. The findings suggest that new road-building practices help to solve the environmental challenge of logging in steep, wet forests, according to an article for the Oregon State University Extension Service. The study is published in the journal Water Resources Research.

This is not going to be the final study of the matter. And there are other impacts of forest roads that the study did not set out to measure. But the next time people are quick to point out the damage caused by forest roads, remember that sweeping criticism is not necessarily accurate.

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