A Partnership of UConn and Eversource

Eversource Energy Center

 

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Trees & People

Trees beautify the New England landscape, define the seasons and enhance both urban and rural scenery. In addition, they provide wildlife habitat, and many ecosystem services including mitigation of air and water pollution. However, trees are the greatest threat to utility infrastructure during a storm, causing nearly 90% of power outages.

Eversource and UConn are partnering up with communities to work on developing programs for maintaining healthy trees and woodlands in proximity to power lines. These programs will benefit local landowners and residents that need reliable power for their homes, businesses, town activities and community events.

Not everyone in a community can be expected to understand the needs of everyone else. When it comes to roadside tree and forest management, there is a large and diverse crowd of stakeholders and this partnership opens dialogue opportunities and enhances understanding of preferences for tree and forest management in urban, suburban and rural communities across Connecticut.

Social scientists at UConn, specializing in natural resource management, are running several research projects aimed at understanding the attitudes about the management of roadside trees and forests, about storms, and about the reliability of electrical power. They are also looking at opportunities for education to foster understanding of the different issues faced by land managers, residents and utilities. Input and buy-in from the community will be vital to any action plan. With input and greater understanding from all sides, it will be possible to manage roadside trees and forests for aesthetic qualities and ecological benefits as well as for public safety and reliability of electric power.

did-you-know-trees

  • ‘Human dimensions of natural resources’ is a social science focused on understanding why people make the decisions they do about natural resources, such as trees, water, and wildlife. It also explores the characteristics that influence those decisions, such as psychological variables, social, cultural, and environmental influences, motivations for and satisfaction with experiences, and sociodemographics.
  • Risk perception is a personal intuitive judgement as opposed to a technical or scientific assessment about risk.  People tend to take a cautious approach toward risks that are likely to involve gain, but gamble toward risks that are likely to involve loss.
  • In the context of this research, values are defined as guiding ethical and moral principles that people use when making decisions.
  • Although values are influenced by an individual’s natural, social, and cultural environment, recent research suggests that certain values are embraced cross-culturally around the globe.
  • Examples include tradition (respect and commitment to customs and ideas), self-direction (independent thought and action), and benevolence (interest in the welfare of people). Reference: Strutch, N., S.H. Schwartz, and W.A. van der Kloot. 2002. Meanings of basic values for women and men: a cross-cultural analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28:16-28.

Goals & Project Updates

The primary intent of this project is to understand the stakeholder perceptions of utility vegetation management. Stakeholders include community residents, public officials, utility managers and professional arborists and foresters. Goals include:

  • Understand barriers to and opportunities for statewide implementation of the Stormwise program.
  • Explore the needs of homeowners, private landowners, municipal and other public officials, professional organizations, tree and forest managers, and other stakeholders in regard to conditions within which individuals are willing to adopt Stormwise tree management strategies.
  • Understand public perceptions of power loss, utility vegetation management including tree removal and trimming, and regarding the use of wood resources from vegetation management efforts in local communities. 

As of Spring 2018:

Resident Survey:

Self administered surveys were used ti measure attitudes towards vegetation management. In Feb., 2016, 3600 surveys were mailed to a random sample of residents in tow areas of eastern and western Connecticut that were along urban-rural gradients. Survey questions addressed storms, power outages, trees and different tree management strategies. More than 1000 surveys were returned. A spatial analysis is also underway to look at variation in attitudes along the urban-rural gradient.

Wood recovery Tree Crew Interviews:

Utility vegetation management generates large quantities of wood. Stormwise partnered with United Illuminating and Eversource Energy on a biomass recovery project to reduce wood waste, promote wood re-use and generate revenue for municipal tree planting. Utility tree crews were trained to keep wood chips clean of debris and preserve the bottom log of a tree where possible. Pilot programs were established in North Haven and Haddam in 2015 and interviews were done with crews that both had and had not implement the program, to understand the perceptions for potential wood recovery.

 

A tree crew works to manage vegetation along overhead power lines.

A tree crew works to manage vegetation along overhead power lines.


Team Members

Anita Morzillo, Assistant Professor, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut.

Jason Parent, Assistant Research Professor, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut.

Tom Worthley, Associate Extension Professor, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut.

Christine Kirchhoff, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Connecticut.

Dr. John C. Volin, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs & Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment department, University of Connecticut.

Danielle Kloster, Graduate Assistant, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut.

Daniel Hale, Graduate Assistant, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut

Steven DiFalco, Graduate Assistant, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut 

 

Contact Information

For more information, please contact Anita Morzillo (anita.morzillo@uconn.edu).

Members of the media, please contact Center Manager Malaquias Pena (mpena@uconn.edu) directly.

 

Eversource Energy Center  | Address: 261 Glenbrook Road, Unit 3276, Storrs, CT 06269-3276 | E-Mail: eversourceenergycenter@uconn.edu