I have had a long history with forest service roads. Seemingly simple arteries, these roads have carried me towards many expeditions into the heart of Missouri’s wilds. Traveling them evokes many fond memories of time spent with close friends and family. Though, to simply travel the roads does not instill a true sense of the forest they access. To me that truth was found in hiking the forests. Engaging only as an observer, I viewed the forests as a thing to be experienced but otherwise undisturbed.
The truth of the forest however is not universal. A logger’s truth is a more practical one, though contrary to my own. Viewing the forest as a resource to be utilized the roads take on a far greater importance. They give life to the industry and provide means to those whose livelihood depends on the forest.
During my first month working alongside the Forest Service I have found truth of the forest to be rather a matter of perspective. In gaining a greater understanding of the work involved in maintaining the Forest Service roads, I have come to view the forest as an organism to be cared for, allowing for it’s continual use while minimizing disruption, rather than an artifact to be preserved and protected from human interference.
I become acquainted with the many facets of the Forest Service that work together to ensure that roads not only provide access but do so in a way that protects the forest or the at very least minimizes damage. I am quite fortunate to have a supervisor who exhibits a genuine interest in exposing me to as many areas of Forest Service responsibility as I am able to experience. Though we are focusing primarily on the roads I have been able interact with the other disciplines to some degree.
Focusing on the roads I have begun to appreciate them as far more than ordinary pathways of dirt and gravel. The level of planning goes far beyond the road itself. Considerations for the impacts on wildlife, the effects on the watershed or disruption of historical heritage must be accounted for. While this can lead to frustrating levels of bureaucracy it is all essential to keeping the forest healthy.
I consider myself fortunate to be able to be a part of the process of keeping these lands healthy for future use.