Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Power Line Right-of-Way

Every place has its own particular management challenges. The Rural Electric Cooperative has a 900 foot long Right-of-Way to run their utility lines through Blue Jay Barrens. Beyond the nuisance of having to mow around a couple of utility poles, most people don’t see where these utility lines would have an effect on growth in the fields. When viewed from a distance, the lines don’t appear to have any effect at all.

The problem isn’t evident until you walk in and take a closer look. In a round about way, electric lines draw unwanted seeds into the area. They do this by providing a handy perch for fruit eating birds that pass undigested seeds through their bodies to be deposited on the ground below the wire. With seed coats softened by the bird’s digestive juices, these seeds give forth a never ending supply of woody seedlings. A single young cedar is not a real problem.

Thousands of young cedars become a time consuming management issue. If not dealt with each year the area will soon become a cedar thicket.

Cedars aren’t the only things coming from these seeds. Many exotic invasive species easily spread in this manner. Here is Autumn Olive. This shrub was probably a single stem that I missed when I came through spraying herbicide this spring. Missing that single sprout has left me with a many branched bush to deal with this year.

White Flowering Dogwood, here displaying red leaves, is also easily spread by birds. Even though I let these shrubs grow in other parts of the field, I won’t let them grow beneath the power lines. I don’t want to leave anything in the right-of-way that would make the utility company feel the need to come in and do their own maintenance. If anyone’s going to be out there mowing, cutting and spraying, I want it to be me.

Sumacs, raspberries and blackberries are also introduced via bird transport. Mowing will keep the plants short, but will not kill them. Herbicide treatment is necessary in order to reduce the infestation.

I don’t know how a Sycamore ended up here. Sycamores don’t generally colonize sites as dry as this.

The shrubs are so numerous along the right-of-way that I don’t individually mark them for herbicide treatment. I mow each winter and spray herbicide in the spring. I’ll walk the right-of-way two or three times each spring, spraying any sprouts that need to be eliminated.

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