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March 2015

VM Views: A Legacy of Continous Improvement

Effectively managing utility rights-of-way is about more than just keeping trees out of power lines. It’s taking an approach to vegetation management that thinks about the long term. How will various vegetation management techniques affect deer that use the right-of-way for cover and forage? How would the application of herbicides impact the plant diversity of the right-of-way? Those questions and more are what initiated the Pennsylvania State Game Lands 33 (SGL33) research project and later the Green Lane Research and Demonstration site, or as many know them, the Bramble and Byrnes research project.

Starting in 1953 with Drs. William Bramble and William Byrnes and continuing since, research cooperators from Penn State University have conducted important ecological research on these Pennsylvania rights-ofway. This research provides a road map for vegetation managers to better understand how various management techniques impact plant, animal and pollinator habitat.

Furthermore, it demonstrates that vegetation managers using integrated vegetation management (IVM) principles can satisfy the goals of stakeholders with ecological, economical, environmental and socially acceptable practices.

The research started with three original objectives that remain in place today:

  1. Compare the effectiveness of commonly used vegetation management practices for removing trees that could interfere with the safe and effective delivery of electricity.
  2. Develop tree-resistant plant cover types.
  3. Determine the effect of vegetation management practices on wildlife habitat, especially for wildlife species of high public interest.

In 2014, we summarized key findings of more than 60 years of research in a white paper called Plant and Animal Response to Long-Term Vegetation Management Practices on Rights-of-Way.

It should be required reading for anyone interested in the impacts of common vegetation management practices on animal and plant communities. As vegetation managers, we need to look for additional opportunities to communicate the benefits of vegetation management and how, as this research shows, implementing IVM practices can provide beneficial habitat to animals, plants and pollinators.

There are two main sections of the paper. The first is “Management Practices Within Right of-Way Study Areas.” It covers brief descriptions of six IVM practices, including mowing plus cut-stubble; high-volume foliar treatments; ultra-low-volume and low-volume basal bark treatments; and mowing and handcutting treatments — and how they were used. The second, “Key Research Findings: Plant and Animal Response to Right-of-Way Treatments,” summarizes key findings around the monitoring and measurement of plant and animal biodiversity among the study areas. It presents findings on the plant community, bird population and nesting studies, reptiles and amphibians, small mammal populations, butterflies and deer populations, including how treatments can help provide valuable habitat for these species.

Dow AgroSciences has been a proud partner on SGL33 and Green Lane and carries on that support today as it continues to deliver insightful findings to utility vegetation managers. To download a full summary report, visit brambleandbyrnes.com.