Finding the Wild in Powerline Roads

In my town of Tallahassee, Florida, powerline roads pop up on a lot of our local trail routes, both in the city and in the national forest. They tend to be free from major obstacles, they can offer more remote routes between major arterial roads, and they typically have some type of trail or tire ruts in place for powerline workers so you know access will likely always be guaranteed.

powerline trail

While these stark reminders of our human reliance on energy and development can take me out of my ride groove, a recent study from the University of Connecticut filled me with hope that even in our own domestication, nature still finds a way to flourish at times. Turns out, these natural by-products of our energy needs are actually crucial greenspaces that sustain and support countless native flowers and wild life – who knew?!

Well, looks like David Wagner, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology did!

“All manner of vertebrate and invertebrate life as well as a wide range of wild flowers and other native plants flourish there,” says Wagner.

If the semi-open landscape – areas of grass and weeds, shrubs, and young forest growth – in the transmission corridors was not managed as it is now by power companies, the land would eventually turn into dense forest with heavy cover and limited sunlight, unsuitable for many of those species, Wagner says.

In one study, Wagner and co-authors examined bee species along a transmission line in Southeastern Connecticut over a two-year period. They identified roughly 50 percent of the state’s bee species there, including one previously thought to be extinct in the United States, the Epeoloides pilosula, which had not been found in this country since 1960.

As an urban dweller who tries my best to support native wildlife in the city, I found this data to be incredibly exciting. Next time you are out there riding on a powerline road just trying to get to the trailhead, take a moment to stop and appreciate the wildness right at your feet!

Check out the whole article from UConn Today here.