Utility Rights-of-Way Wildlife Research at Penn State
Plant and animal community response to long-term vegetation management on rights-of-way
Paper: Three Year Summary Report
Electrical right-of-way (ROW) vegetation management methods arrest plant growth and, therefore, provide early successional habitat that is compatible with electrical powerlines and favored by many floral and faunal species (Komonen et al. 2012, Wagner et al. 2014). One way to achieve this compatible vegetation cover is through Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM). IVM utilizes a variety of management approaches to achieve a desired vegetation community type. These approaches may include chemical, manual, and mechanical techniques (e.g., Johnstone 2008). The response of vegetation to IVM is important because vegetation communities can change within a relatively short time due to natural plant succession. In general, the 2 phases of IVM along electrical ROW are: 1) use of a herbicidal spray or mechanical treatment to initially control the density of target (non-compatible) trees, i.e., those that have the potential of growing to a height that is not compatible with safe ROW maintenance, such as maples, cherrys, or oaks, and 2) development of a tree-resistant plant cover type to reduce target tree invasion of the ROW. On electrical ROW, the wire zone – border zone method (Figure I-1) is recommended to provide diverse wildlife habitat (Yahner 2004), with low-lying vegetation in the wire zone and taller vegetation in the border zone to create habitat diversity.