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A report by New Mexico's Game and Fish Department shows that roads, road-building, and the associated traffic they encourage, create a cascade of adverse effects to the forest ecosystem. What impacts do these roads have on the forests and the watershed?
New Mexico contains approximately 1.6 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs) in 6 national forests. Within these IRAs, 351,000 acres are not currently protected from additional road building by existing forest plans.
IRAs are portions of the National Forest System (NFS) generally over 5,000 acres in size that were inventoried for possible inclusion in the National Wilderness System. When inventoried, these IRAs did not contain roads recognized as official by the U.S. Forest Service. Of the initial 58.5 million acres of IRAs in the U.S., an estimated 2.8 million acres have been roaded since they were inventoried.
Roads, road-building, and the associated traffic they encourage, create a cascade of adverse effects to the forest ecosystem. These include stream sedimentation, reduced water quality, introduction of undesirable non-native plants and animals, habitat fragmentation that adversely affects fish and wildlife populations, and increased unintentional man-caused wildfires.
Of the 24,800 miles of National Forest System roads in New Mexico, only 4,240 miles, or 17%, receive annual maintenance.