Research Article

Environmental Management

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 218-233

First online:

Decision Support for Road System Analysis and Modification on the Tahoe National Forest

  • Evan GirvetzAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
  • , Fraser ShillingAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, CA 95616

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Abstract

The United States Forest Service is required to analyze road systems on each of the national forests for potential environmental impacts. We have developed a novel and inexpensive way to do this using the Ecosystem Management Decision Support program (EMDS). We used EMDS to integrate a user-developed fuzzy logic knowledge base with a grid-based geographic information system to evaluate the degree of truth for assertions about a road’s environmental impact. Using spatial data for natural and human processes in the Tahoc National Forest (TNF, California, USA), we evaluated the assertion “the road has a high potential for impacting the environment.” We found a high level of agreement between the products of this evaluation and ground observations of a TNF transportation engineer, as well as occurrences of road failures. We used the modeled potential environmental impact to negatively weight roads for a least-cost path network analysis to 1573 points of interest in the forest. The network analysis showed that out of 8233 km of road analyzed in the forest, 3483 km (42%) must be kept in a modified road network to ensure access to these points. We found that the modified network had improved patch characteristics, such as significantly fewer “cherry stem” roads intruding into patches, an improved area-weighted mean shape index, and larger mean patch sizes, as compared to the original network. This analysis system could be used by any public agency to analyze infrastructure for environmental or other risk and included in other mandated analyses such as risks to watersheds.

Keywords

Roads Road analysis Decision support Knowledge base United States Forest Service