Rethinking Specifications and Planning to Promote Stewardship

Rowan Mason, TC Energy, and Roy Van Houten, Davey Tree and Wetlands Services, demonstrated the impact of shared stewardship across energy rights of way during one of the Energy for Wildlife sessions at the NWTF National Convention and Sport Show.

NWTF’s Energy for Wildlife sessions are a series of presentations from various stakeholder’s within the energy industry, including representatives from energy companies and biocontrol products, professors, consulting groups, software companies and conservation groups. NWTF Director of Energy Partnerships Steve Barlow coordinates the sessions.

The sessions range in subject matter from increasing habitat for the Monarch butterfly on linear rights of way to how to appropriately talk with landowners about their property’s potential as a right of way and what the habitat implications of that are.

Mason and Van Houten’s presentation highlighted a show-piece project out of Waynesboro, Virginia, that demonstrated how taking extra, and initially more costly, measures can result in a more sustainable end product that appeased both the energy company and the landowner.

One of the most important ways to monitor success is to utilize GIS technologies to quantify a forest’s baseline inventory of plant species, Mason said. Next, he suggested physically going through the forest to verify GIS description and incorporate changes, if any observed. These observations act as a reference point to establish success after the project’s completion.

The area along the right of way in Waynesboro, Virginia, before management had zero light reaching the forest floor due to an over-dense forest caused by the lack of management.

Mason’s team mechanically removed 225 invasive species, followed up with hack-and-squirt herbicide applications and seeded a native meadow mix.  

The end result was a colorful 89% vegetative cover with more suitable habitat for pollinators, wild turkeys and countless other species. The presentation demonstrated that taking extra, and sometimes more expensive, measures can prove to be less costly in the long run, in addition to appeasing landowners and increasing public opinion of how energy companies manage habitat along rights of way.

Mason suggested successes such as the Waynesboro, Virginia, project are due to the collaboration from varying partners across the industry, from conservation groups such as the NWTF to research groups that ensure energy companies are in compliance.  

The nine sessions throughout the day were concluded by presenting the annual Energy for Wildlife Achievement Award to Black Hills Energy. Black Hills Energy has enrolled 1,000 acres into the NWTF Habitat Endorsement Program and worked closely with the NWTF to improve habitat on their rights of way, including the notable work done in the Black Hills National Forest for Merriam’s wild turkey.  

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