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Tree – Utility Line Conflicts


In many areas of the United States, there is a major and potentially disastrous conflict between overhead utility lines and inappropriately tall trees planted in or near line easements.  Although numerous options, including burying utility lines and applying tree growth regulators, exist to deal with tree – utility line conflicts, one of the most practical solutions is the selection and planting of trees with mature heights compatible with overhead utility lines.

Virginia Cooperative Extension released a valuable publication on this topic in 2002 (revised 2009) to raise awareness of the issue and to provide recommendations for utility-compatible tree species.  In addition, several demonstration plantings of utility-compatible tree species have been established throughout Virginia as part of the Municipal Tree Restoration Program.  These plantings have come to be known as “Utility Line Arboreta” and provide a venue for evaluating, showcasing, and promoting utility-compatible trees.

Dr. Bonnie Appleton has lead efforts to raise awareness of tree – utility line conflicts in Virginia and has overseen the development of most of the arboreta.  She established the first arboretum in Virginia at Hampton Roads AREC in 1994.  Since that time, arboreta have also been established in Abingdon, Arlington, Chesapeake, and Lynchburg.

Website update: TSS 2/12/10
Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation Virginia Department of Forestry USDA Forest Service