The Connecticut Botanical Society (CBS) has a long history of working with electrical utility companies to develop sustainable vegetation management strategies in powerline corridors, also known as Rights-of-Way (ROWs). During the 1950s, plant ecologists and CBS leaders Frank Egler, William Niering, Richard Goodwin and others began developing a system of Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) for ROWs as an alternative to blanket spraying of herbicides. Their IVM approach was based on the selective removal of tall growing “incompatible” trees to favor a stable shrub community. At that time, CBS established a ROW Vegetation Committee to work with utilities and implement IVM, which was used successfully for decades.
Although Eversource still uses the term “Integrated Vegetation Management” to describe how they manage powerline corridors, their recent approach is quite different from that envisaged by Egler et al. and often damaging to plant and animal communities. The broad scale and indiscriminate mowing of woody vegetation, sometime referred to as a “hard reset”, not only harms valuable habitat but encourages the growth of unwanted tall-growing trees. Large gravel work pads and wide roads for the large equipment needed to replace utility structures pose further threats. The documents below provide valuable guidance and information for land trusts and landowners who find themselves working with electrical utility companies on the ROWs that cross their properties.
- CBS Newsletter, Fall 2018 ROW article. In this newsletter article, CBS alerted members to dramatic changes in ROW maintenance and offered initial advice on how to protect property.
- Assessment of Changes in Vegetation Management on Powerline Corridors in Connecticut, Robert Askins, March 2019. This document was submitted to Eversource in response to dramatic changes in electrical utility right-of-Way (ROW) management following decades of successful IVM. Dr. Askins, Professor Emeritus of Biology at Connecticut College, was a lead member of a ROW Workgroup organized in 2018 out of concerns about changes in ROW management.
- Guidelines for Managing Utility Rights-of-way for Birds and New England Cottontails. Dr. Askins submitted a follow-up guideline document to Eversource in June 2019
- Connecticut Botanical Society – Position Paper on Right of Way Management, April 2019 by Sigrun Gadwa, Chair of the CBS Ecology and Conservation Committee and then CBS President, David Yih. This document was submitted to Eversource as a supplement to Dr. Askins’ Assessment of Changes. Sigrun is a consulting plant ecologist and wetland/soil scientist in Connecticut, with a Masters in Plant Ecology from the University of Connecticut. The CBS Position Paper discusses ROW vegetation management issues from the perspective of the sciences of Plant Ecology & Conservation Biology.
- Connecticut Botanical Society Ecology & Conservation Committee Recommendations for Electrical Utility Right-of-Way (ROW) Vegetation Management, 2020 – three document set described below, which was sent to Eversource in September 2020 from CBS. These documents are also posted on the Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) website with related ROW information.
- Cover letter to Eversource introducing the CBS Recommendations for ROW Vegetation Management
- CBS Conservation Committee Recommendations for Electrical Utility Right-of-Way (ROW) Vegetation Management, September 2020, by CBS Right-of-Way Subcommittee, of the CBS Ecology & Conservation Committee. This publication draws on the principles laid out in the CBS position paper on ROW management, and contributing authors’ experiences and observations of vegetation responses to different ecological conditions and management practices. it is also informed by data collected during CBS field trips to ROW areas, as well as a report by REMA Ecological Services (See Study of an Eversource Right-of-Way below).
- The CT Invasive Plant Council’s Best Management Practices for Handling of Topsoil and Mulch was issued in March 2019. It is a detailed set of guidelines for construction and maintenance managers at highway, ROW, and other construction sites, to minimize spread of several aggressive invasive colonizers of disturbed soils.
- Protecting the Ecology in Utility Rights-of-Way: A Land Trust and Landowners Guide. CBS Ecology & Conservation Committee, October 2022. This document provides valuable information for land trusts and all landowners whose lands are affected by utility ROWs. It explains what landowner can expect in dealing with utility companies, what regulations are in place and how to negotiate for protection of natural resources in affected areas.
- Historic and Recent Efforts by the Connecticut Botanical Society and Others to Protect the Environment in Utility Rights-of-Way (ROWs), 2022, CT Botanical Society, Ecology and Conservation Committee.
- List of Rare and Uncommon Vascular Plant Species in ROW Habitats, April 2014 developed by CTDEEP NDDB and CBS Ecology and Conservation Committee.
- CBS Species List for the Avery Farm ROW, compiled by Whitney Adams and edited by Sigrun Gadwa. Avery Farm is owned by the Groton Open Space Association. This list was also submitted for the 2019 CBS Field Trip Report in the CBS 2020 Field Book.
- Study of an Eversource Right-of-Way and Attachments. This is a 2019 Study by Rema Ecological Services of a section of ROW in Glastonbury. The lead author is Sigrun Gadwa, ROW Committee Chair. Findings of this study contributed substantially to the CBS ROW Guidelines
- Eastern Red Cedar: Ecological Values & ROW Management (August 19, 2019) Rema Ecological Services, provides information on the ecological importance or eastern red cedar and recommendations for management.