The Importance of Getting Involved

By Jimmy Williams, Vice President

It is important to get involved in our industry. Specifically, if you’re looking to impact the direction utility vegetation management (UVM) is going, it’s important to participate. Each year CNUC provides Utility Arborist Association (UAA) memberships to all our employees and we encourage those that want to get involved to do so. For the past couple of years, I’ve personally been a member of the events committee for the UAA. This committee’s initiative is to put on both educational and safety events across the country. Each year, our group looks to partner with utilities and contractors to host events in new areas. It’s a wonderful experience to work with other professionals who are looking to improve the future of our profession. Each committee is made up of individuals from different companies, many of which are from direct competitors. But our focus isn’t on competition—it’s on improving our industry. Getting involved allows you to meet new professionals, expand your knowledge, share new ideas and much more. Below are other ways CNUC employees have gotten involved in the industry.

Right-of-Way Stewardship Council (ROWSC)

Derek Vannice, President

I serve as chair of the Right-of-Way Stewardship Council (ROWSC) and have since its inception. The council is comprised of 15 individuals who represent all of the stakeholder groups, including utilities, environmental organizations, industry associations, consultants and contractors. The ROWSC is an accreditation program that establishes standards for responsible right-of-way (ROW) vegetation management along corridors. The program promotes the application of Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) and best management practices to utility vegetation managers to maintain power system reliability and address ecological concerns. The accreditation provides standards of excellence for environmental stewardship and presents the opportunity for companies to demonstrate their commitment to such standards. Third-party recognition ensures an independent, proven process to convey credibility and bring recognition to IVM programs. The benefits of the accreditation reach beyond the practitioner’s sphere; it has the potential to positively impact the industry, communities, stakeholders and agencies. The ROWSC is a program managed by Dovetail Partners, a Minneapolis-based environmental think tank. Dovetail provides program and organizational leadership services, working closely with the council. The ROWSC model follows the lead of the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Standards for Assessing Performance of IVM on ROW and is informed by other well-established accreditation programs found in the forest industry such as the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The ROWSC has established management standards based on a set of predetermined principles, requires a formal application process, and enlists third-party auditors to ensure compliance with standards.

Tour des Trees

Randall H. Miller, Director of Research & Development

The Tour des Trees is a weeklong bike ride to raise money for tree research and education grants awarded by TREE (Tree Research and Education Endowment) Fund. This year, the ride is planned for five days and nearly 450 miles. I am involved with TREE Fund as a past board chair, current board member and Tour des Trees rider. The money raised by the Tour des Trees is important because we as professional arborists owe our livelihoods to tree research. Without applying the knowledge we gain from it, we have nothing to offer except the lowest price. Education is equally important as we need to educate the next generation of arborists to meet our high demand for skilled professionals. So, we have a vested interest in supporting tree-related research and education. Supporting tree research and education is also central to CNUC and our values: safety, integrity, teamwork, knowledge, innovation, family and quality. Without supporting the latest research and the drive to learn from it, we don’t have the integrity to gain the knowledge to innovate and work together to safely deliver the quality to which we say we are committed. So, I am involved with Tour des Trees because the research and education it drives are central to who we are as a company, as professionals and as an industry.

ROW Habitat Working Group

Philip Chen, Manager of Research & Development

The Rights-of-Way as Habitat Working Group (ROWHWG) was established in 2015 and engages more than 200 organizations across private industry, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and academia across North America to drive habitat conservation on energy and transportation working lands. I joined the group in 2017 and since then I have been active at our biannual meetings. Additionally, I am a member of  the group’s Habitat Targets and Metrics Taskforce. Our task force has worked to develop a working group definition of pollinator habitat and developed a pollinator habitat score card and data collection protocol. Due to land development and land management intensification, we see a diminishment of habitat worldwide. This is leading to major declines in insects and other wildlife populations. Recent research has reported that as much as 40% of insect species are in decline, and some populations are seeing nearly 80% decline in the past few decades. These numbers are alarming. ROW represent a unique opportunity to assist. Energy and transportation ROW represent a potential 26 million acres of habitat. Additionally, these ROW acres create a broad network of linear tracts which intersect a variety of landscapes, often connecting remnant habitats to other favorable environments. ROW are fairly protected from future development and can represent a large opportunity to add acreage of habitat while adding landscape-scale connectivity. CNUC has an opportunity to participate in seeing this vision materialize. I believe that the ROWHWG is one part of driving this change and that provides me an added layer of meaning to my work.

UAA Montana Safety Summit

Regional Supervisors Bryan Daane and Patrick Larsen

This past July, we had the opportunity to participate in the UAA Safety Summit meeting in Missoula, Montana. This event provided a platform for industry leaders and experts to collaborate, and exchange information and ideas. The attendance was exceptional, consisting of utilities and contractors large and small in and around the region. There was a wealth of knowledge and years of experience that saturated the atmosphere. It provided an avenue for in-depth discussions on challenges and opportunities others are facing within the industry. Through networking and brainstorming, numerous best practices tactics were brought to light. We as an industry need to communicate these best practices and tactics throughout the industry and act on them by incorporating into the day to day operations. The result will lead to a much safer and overall more cohesive band of organizations within the UVM industry.

Alabama Urban Forestry Association

Matt Searels, Regional Manager

I am working on a committee with the Alabama Urban Forestry Association to develop a high school Utility Vegetation Management curriculum so students and can earn a certificate to show their competence in industry practices. This should help recent graduates be more marketable within our industry and should simultaneously work as a recruiting tool. I specifically have been working with the team to develop the overall subject matter outline and provide content in specific areas, such as tree identification. Several Alabama high schools have expressed interest in this type of program, and we hope it will quickly spread to surrounding states if we can provide a strong framework that simultaneously helps students and employers.

Conclusion

Our industry offers many ways for you to get involved, such as writing articles, research, planning, and outreach. However, we need volunteers. If you are interested in getting plugged into the industry more, please reach out to your supervisor.