Electric companies provide valuable habitats for plants and wildlife. In addition to complying with the Endangered Species Act, electric companies take special actions to protect threatened and endangered species and critical habitat on our lands.
Providing Valuable Habitat for Wildlife Living on Our Company Lands and Rights-of-Way
Through our regular management and maintenance of the vegetation on our transmission and distribution rights-of-way, we provide important habitat for many types of plants and wildlife.
Power line rights-of-way are used as migration corridors for a wide range of species, especially land-based species. They also create "edge" or border habitats necessary for the survival of many birds and small mammals. And many power line structures themselves, particularly in the western and southwestern parts of the nation, are used by raptors as perching and nesting sites. Lands and waters owned by electric companies often serve as wildlife refuges or preserves and, thus, are protected from development from other interests.
Protecting Endangered Animals
The occurrence of unique, threatened, or endangered species on lands maintained by electric companies is impressive. In fact, approximately half of listed species have at least 80 percent of their habitat on non-federal lands and water, including resources used by electric companies for electricity transmission and generation. In addition to complying with the Endangered Species Act, our companies are taking special actions—often at considerable expense—to protect threatened and endangered species and critical habitats on our lands.
Electric Companies Working to Protect Land Resources
Resources to Promote Compatibility Between Birds and Power Lines
Avian Protection Plan Guidelines
The Avian Protection Plan, or APP, is a voluntary, utility-specific program to reduce the operational and avian risks that result from avian interactions with electric utility facilities. Although each utility’s APP will be different, the overall goal of reducing avian mortality is the same. APPs are “living documents” that are continually evaluated and refined over time. APP Guidelines were jointly released by APLIC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2005. These Guidelines offer resources for developing an APP.
Avian Power Line Interaction Committee
APLIC was formed in 1989 to address whooping crane collisions with power lines. Since its inception, APLIC has expanded to address a variety of avian/power line interactions including electrocutions, collisions, and nests. APLIC was originally comprised of 10 utilities, Edison Electric Institute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Audubon Society.
APLIC membership now includes over 50 utilities, the Edison Electric Institute, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Electric Power Research Institute, the National Rural Electrical Cooperative Association, and the Rural Utilities Service. APLIC has developed guidance documents identifying causes and minimization methods for avian electrocutions and collisions, and released national Avian Protection Plan Guidelines in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2005. APLIC hosts short courses and meetings each spring and fall throughout the U.S., and funds research related to avian/power line interactions and conservation.
Suggested Practices for Raptor Protection
Bird electrocutions may occur because of a combination of biological, environmental, and electrical design factors. Biological and environmental factors include:
- Bird species (body size, behavior, distribution and abundance)
- Prey availability
The key electrical design factor is the physical separation between energized and or grounded parts. If the distance between energized conductors or between an energized conductor and grounded hardware is less than that of the head-to-foot or wrist-to-wrist (flesh-to-flesh) distance of a bird (the wrist is the joint toward the middle of the leading edge of a bird’s wing; the skin covering the wrist is the outermost fleshy part on the wing). Because a bird’s feathers provide insulation when dry, contact must typically be made with fleshy parts, such as the skin, feet, or bill, for electrocution to occur. Consequently, most electrocutions are of large birds, such as eagles, hawks, and ravens.
Reducing Avian Collisions with Power Lines: State of the Art in 2012
Bird collisions may occur because of a combination of biological, environmental, and electrical design factors. Such factors include:
- Habitat, weather, time of day, lighting, human activity;
- Bird species (body size, flight behavior, distribution and abundance, flocking behavior, age, sex); and
- Power line configuration and location.
Power lines located between feeding and roosting areas of flocking birds may present an increased collision risk. This is especially true for lines near rivers, lakes, or wetlands where fog may be common, making lines less visible. Human activity near lines may flush birds, with startled bird potentially colliding with power lines. Heavy-bodied, less agile birds, or those within flocks may lack the ability to quickly negotiate obstacles, making them more vulnerable to power line collisions. Collisions most often occur with the overhead static wire, which may be less visible than energized conductors due to its smaller diameter. Most bird collisions involve waterfowl, pelicans, and cranes.
Power line spans in collision risk areas may be marked to make the wires more visible to flying birds. A variety of line marking devices, including hanging markers, coils, and aviation marker balls, are commercially available. Line markers should be evaluated and approved by company engineers prior to use.