August 2014

VM Views: The role of best management practices in utility vegetation management

The term “Best Management Practice(s)” or “BMP” for short is in frequent use in the utility vegetation management (UVM) business. But what does it mean? In our industry, a BMP is typically a reference intended to guide users in the application of current science and technology. BMPs are established by an authoritative body and represent the collective experience and wisdom of practitioners. They are intended as useful references that describe methods and techniques that have consistently resulted in superior results. In that light, BMPs are a path to best-in-class performance.

The BMPs with relevance to UVM are published by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and the Utility Arborist Association (UAA), and they were developed in collaborative processes that included the involvement of scientists, subject matter experts and practitioners. They also are consistent with relevant standards and regulations and are intended to aid practitioners in achieving compliance.

BMPs are often cited in UVM contract specifications and used as a basis for development of technical specification requirements. In that light, they help establish a clear set of expectations and common frame of reference between utility asset manager and providers of UVM services such as applicators.

There are four important BMPs that are relevant to UVM programs and practitioners. The ISA BMP Integrated Vegetation Management is the authoritative reference defining IVM practices. It is based on ANSI A300 Part 7 (2012). The existing BMP (2007) is in revision and should be published by ISA later this year. The UAA BMP Closed Chain of Custody for Herbicides in the Utility Vegetation Management Industry focuses on container recycling and the reduction of worker exposure and errors. It describes practices related to maintaining close connections at transfer points from producer to distributor, custom blender and applicator. It also addresses mixing, storage of herbicides and the return of empty containers for reuse.

The third reference relevant to the UVM industry is the ISA BMP Tree Risk Assessment. This newly published BMP provides guidance on determining risk exposure associated with tree failures. It is a companion publication to ANSI A300 Part 9. Finally, the ISA BMP Utility Pruning of Trees provides guidance relevant to line clearance pruning for tree-conductor clearances.

BMPs have proven to be useful references that every practitioner should be familiar with. They can help achieve best-in-class performance. To be clear, not all practices will work in every case because trees are living organisms and plant communities are dynamic. However, departure from BMPs should be made only after careful consideration of specific circumstances and conditions that may justify deliberate variation.