Driving around New Jersey, you have undoubtedly passed by a maintained electric transmission line right-of-way, which tends to stand out among otherwise forested or developed landscape.
Public Service Electric & Gas maintains over 1,200 miles of electric transmission ROWs in New Jersey. Federal and state regulations require utilities to manage trees and other woody vegetation under electric transmission lines to prevent power outages. This maintenance program creates an excellent opportunity to enhance pollinator habitats, serving both transmission and environmental needs.
Homes and shelter for wildlife
In recent years, biologists and conservationists have recognized that electric transmission ROWs can provide important early successional habitats that are otherwise dwindling in our state. What are early successional habitats? They are communities of vegetation dominated by grasses, forbs, shrubs and young saplings – such as meadows, grasslands, old farm fields and scrub-shrub areas.
These habitats are vital for pollinators (such as butterflies and bees), and provide an excellent source of food and cover for many species of wildlife.
In New Jersey, we have been experiencing a decline in early successional habitats due to forest succession, loss of agricultural lands, natural fire suppression and real estate development. As we lose these habitats, we also lose the wildlife species that depend on them. Songbirds, raptors, snakes, turtles, turkey, quail, grouse, deer, rabbit, bear, fox and native pollinators are just a few examples of species that use these spaces for foraging, nesting or cover.
Specialized native plant seed mixes
How does PSE&G promote early successional habitats? We employ integrated vegetation management to promote sustainable early successional habitats on the ROWs, with the goal of minimizing human disturbances.
Recently, PSE&G also started an initiative to convert parts of our ROWs that are maintained lawn, which provide little to no wildlife benefit, into early successional habitats, with a focus on pollinator meadows.
In 2016, PSE&G introduced five special seed mixes created by our own biologists with input from environmental consultants and vendors that specialize in entomology and botany. These mixes were formulated to provide plant species with various flower shapes, colors and blooming period so that they can support a wide variety of pollinators throughout the growing season. The mixes also include grasses and legumes, which help with soil health and stabilization.
For instance, the PSE&G Pollinator Mix contains 18 different seeds, including these butterfly and bee favorites: purple coneflower, butterfly milkweed, wild bergamot, common milkweed and tall white beardtongue.
These mixes help to provide an abundance of nectar, soil stabilization and wildlife food and cover. The seed lies dormant until spring, and as snow and cold temperatures lift, acres of new habitats are added to our state. This year, we expect to see about 20 acres, from work done in 2018.
PSE&G’s longstanding partnerships with various groups, such as the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, Conserve Wildlife Foundation, New Jersey Audubon and Mercer County Parks, among others, have allowed us to play a greater role in enhancing New Jersey’s wildlife habitats.
These partnerships highlight PSE&G’s commitment to environmental stewardship, sustainability and awareness. PSE&G is committed to maintaining our infrastructure in an environmentally responsible manner to provide safe, reliable electric service for our customers while also promoting a healthy environment.