A Doughnut-hole Tree is a Story of a Misplaced Tree

Photo by Toto_G

Utility companies and tree care providers take no pleasure in creating misshapen trees. They know aggressive and unnatural pruning is usually harmful to a tree’s health and may reduce its life expectancy. Wildlife advocates know it reduces habitat as well. And all agree it reduces a tree’s aesthetic and economic value. However, avoiding conflicts with power lines benefits everyone, including birds.

Utility companies are required by the Public Utility Commission to create proper clearance from vegetation to ensure public safety and avoid disruption of service. Avoiding conflicts with power lines begins at the time we choose a tree. Two factors, its expected height and breadth at maturity, and the presence of overhead or underground power lines are often overlooked but important considerations. Utility companies provide ‘Right Tree Right Place’ guidance for property owners.

When a tree grows rapidly, clearance may be greater than regulations require. This reduces the cost of more frequent pruning. Keep in mind that conduction companies manage in excess of a million trees annually. Also, clearance requirements are not all the same for all power lines and in all regions.

The unfortunate reality is that proper clearance is the only stated objective of the crew hired for the job. Maintaining the tree’s aesthetics, or habitat for birds is not. Protecting the active nests of native birds (in California, at least) is still required by law. In an emergency, a permit to remove or relocate a nest may be obtained. Wildlife advocates can help protect nesting birds and other wildlife by alerting the appropriate utility company of any active nests in trees scheduled for clearance. If work can be delayed until young have fledged, advocates can also assist a utility company by contacting them when the birds have left.

To find out when your street trees are scheduled to be pruned, or for more information, visit the website of your service provider, or call their customer service number. Here is a helpful link.

Avoiding Tree Utility Conflicts

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