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The Steinbach-Schattseite Forest Road Network

Some 3,000 hectares of small farm forest are situated in the watershed of the Steinbach river in the district of Kirchdorf, about 20 km east of Gmunden. The river valley marks the geological boundary between the northern limestone Alps and the ‘Flyschzone’, characterised by sandstone and marl.

Activities to create a modern rural road network in the area began in the 1960s with the aim of connecting the numerous farm holdings to the public road network on the right-hand slope of the valley, which is exposed to the south. The mountainous left-hand side of the valley is mainly forest land, but harvesting by means of skidding methods had become almost impracticable.

As a result, the Forest Service drafted an outline for a road network in close cooperation with forest owners. From the outset it was clear that the overall layout of the road network would have to be subdivided into a number of projects since different access roads and sub-watersheds would have to be taken into account. With nearly 300 forest owners living in different villages involved, this was a time-consuming process that called for lengthy negotiations and the collection of local data.

Hydrogeological conditions in the area are difficult. The lower slopes are part of the ‘Flyschzone’ formation, where the ground is clayish and unstable, but forest growth is excellent. Limestone and dolomite form the bedrock of the steep upper slopes, where good quality base material can be found. Because of the many springs, the contact zone for both geological strata is highly unstable, and many landslips had to be stabilised during road construction work.

With a total length of about 20 km, the Steinbach-Schattseite forest road network is one of the most extensive the Forest Service has realised in farm forests within a coherent framework. Although apparently paradoxical at first sight, road construction commenced on the upper slopes, with the forest area being sub-divided into top-down logging sections so that corresponding roads could be constructed according to actual skidding conditions. This helps explain why the ‘Hochsalm’ and ‘Wolfweise’ projects were implemented first in this area.

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