Resource roads are typically one- or two-lane gravel roads built for industrial purposes to access natural resources in remote areas. Over 620,000 kilometres of roads on the British Columbia landbase are considered resource roads. Resource roads are a highly valued part of B.C.’s transportation network and are essential to economic development.
Resource roads are constructed to develop, protect and access B.C.'s natural resources. They are used primarily by industrial vehicles engaged in forestry, mining, oil & gas or agriculture operations. In addition to resource industries, resource roads are used by the general public and commercial operators, such as ski hills or fishing lodges. They serve as crucial links for rural communities and access to recreational opportunities.
Resource roads are not built or maintained to the same standards as public highways. Many resource roads are not maintained. Most resource roads have gravel surfaces and are narrow (often one lane wide). There may be roadside brush limiting visibility, soft shoulders, more and tighter curves, with road grades that are much steeper than are encountered on public highways.
Resource roads do not necessarily have signs or barriers identifying all hazards or dangers. Common hazards on resource roads include: large industrial vehicles, high traffic volumes; poor visibility due to brush, alignment, dust, fog or smoke; passing or being passed on narrow roads; changing road surface conditions; freezing rain or snow; others failing to follow traffic control procedures; wildlife and other unmarked hazards.
Resource road users must drive with caution at all times.
Types of Resource Roads
In B.C., there are many types of resource roads which are defined as roads found on Crown land that are not part of the provincial highway and byway system. Public roads and highways (administered by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure), municipal roads, rural side roads and roads on private or federally managed land are not considered resource roads.
The resource roads covered here are related to forest industrial sector use and covered by forest legislation.
The primary forest sector resource roads are:
- Road permit roads; and
- Forest Service Roads
The majority of resource roads are permit roads for access to natural resources. Forest Act road permits are issued to forest licencees with a right to harvest timber on Crown land by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Forest Act road permit roads are managed by forest licensees in the forest industry. Other permit roads may be administered by the oil and gas industry or the mining industry.
The B.C. Government administers about 60,000 kilometres of Forest Service Roads (FSRs). FSRs are maintained by the forest industry under road use permits, or where there is no industrial user responsible for maintenance, by the B.C. Government. Where there is no industrial maintainer, the B.C. Government carries out maintenance, subject to available funding, where communities, rural residents and high value recreation sites have priority.
Some resource roads have been established by BC Hydro, including roads that access independent power projects and clean energy projects.
Some resource roads will be maintained at a wilderness maintenance level which means they are maintained to protect the environment and not for public or industrial use. These roads are not maintained for vehicular access.
Non-Status Roads (NSRs) are resource roads on Crown land found on maps but have unknown status and origin.
Engineering Standards for Forest Service Roads
The B.C. government has established engineering standards and processes that ensure Forest Service Roads are designed, built, maintained, deactivated and administered in a safe and effective manner.
Access the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Engineering Manual, road use permits and other guidance documents related to administration, design, construction and usage of Forest Service Roads and other forest resource roads.
Information on standard resource road radio communications protocols implemented on Forest Service Roads and other resource roads in B.C.
In B.C., resource roads are governed by over one dozen legislative Acts and regulations. Government is taking steps to harmonize legislation in order to improve safety, environmental protection and economic growth.
Oil & Gas Activities
Government provides guidance for forest service road and Forest Act road permit administration for oil and gas activities.
The effects of a changing climate can impact roads. Government is taking steps to adapt resource roads to climate change.
Engineering Equipment & Services (EES) is a directory of qualified consultants and equipment available for hire by government for the purpose of Forest Service Road engineering and construction.
Resource Road Safety Information
Back country roads may present rough and wet conditions with soft muddy sections. Where avalanche paths exist the roads may be partially covered with residual debris. As always, caution is advised on all roads and back-country travellers should be aware of rapidly changing weather conditions and stream flows which may affect road conditions.