Public Access - Forest Roads
Use of forest roads increases dramatically during summer months and holiday weekends as well as in the fall through deer season in November. Late-September and October forest visitors--bird hunters and leaf-watchers especially--increase traffic on forest roads to almost double the traffic averaged for the rest of the year. Deer hunters also account for an increase in use during November, when normally cold, wet weather keeps some other forest users indoors. Later in winter, skiers and snowmobilers make use of forest roads. Minnesota's 16.6 million acres of forestland provide diverse, year-round recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. Multiple-use forest management, including roads constructed for timber harvesting, ensures that Minnesotans and visitors can enjoy all the pleasures of the forests.
For many Minnesotans and visitors, forest roads provide the first and sometimes only avenue for taking advantage of what Minnesota's forestlands have to offer. One-third of Minnesota is covered by trees and most berry pickers, anglers, hikers, birdwatchers, hunters and snowmobilers would find access to the forests difficult if not impossible if not for the roads that open up the forests to multiple uses.
Forest roads crisscross lands owned by federal, state and county governments as well as forests owned by individuals and corporations. These roads, some of them primitive and temporary and some better-developed and permanent, are built primarily for forest management. They provide access for timber harvesting as well as for other activities such as insect and disease control and fire response.
A bonus of road construction is the access it provides for the general public. Forest management-related traffic accounts for less than 10 percent of annual road use. More than 90 percent of forest road users are people out to pick berries, fish, camp, hunt, hike, cross-country ski, snowmobile or spot birds and other wildlife. The roads generally are open for public use, but because many of these roads cross private lands, owners may install gates that occasionally are closed for safety reasons or to prevent damage to the forest or the road itself. Landowners anticipate that forest users will respect the need to close roads periodically.