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USDA Forest Service Issues Rule to Manage Vegetation inside Utility Corridors

USDA Forest Service issued a final rule today that updates the agency’s special-use regulations in alignment with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s memorandum to increase the productivity of national forests and grasslands. The updated rule aims to enhance electric grid reliability, reduce wildfire risk in electric transmission and distribution rights-of-way, and lower the costs of delivering electricity to American homes and communities.

“Developing consistent, efficient and effective procedures to manage vegetation in utility corridors will enhance the safety of communities, as well as protect property and infrastructure from the threat of wildfire,” said USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “In our role as an integral link in the power grid, this will help us increase the overall reliability of the grid, which will provide better continuity to public services.”

National forests and grasslands serve as an important link in delivering electricity to 70 million American homes and businesses. There are more than 3,000 electric transmission and distribution lines authorized on 18,000 miles of agency-managed land through special-use permits. The Forest Service works closely with utility companies, developing partnerships that benefit the public and keep national forests healthy and productive.

The updated rule will provide consistent direction to Forest Service staff when coordinating with utility companies for routine removal of dead and dying trees that pose fire risk to powerline structures. The agency is also reducing the time it takes to review and approve plans to manage vegetation around lines and facilities on national forests and grasslands as well as on abutting lands within rights-of-way for electric transmission and distribution lines.

The final rule can be found in the Federal Register.