Integrated Vegetation Management Partners, Inc. was formed in response to the recognized need for a professional liaison between utilities and public agencies. Rick Johnstone was employed as System Forester for the Mid-Atlantic electric utility Conectiv (Delmarva Power & Atlantic City Electric), and was part of Edison Electric Institute’s Vegetation Management Task Force. The EEI Task Force had been meeting with federal land management agencies to develop an agreement as to how vegetation growing on electric transmission rights-of-way (ROW) should be managed. Despite meetings over several years, an agreement still was out of reach.
With years of successful management along the environmentally sensitive Chesapeake Bay region, Johnstone recognized that the primary objectives of his electric utility ROW (safe, reliable, accessible and economical energy delivery) must be meshed with important secondary objectives of the environmental and recreational community (wildlife, birds, water quality, invasive weed control, sediment control, wildfire control, aesthetics). Honest dialogue between industry and the environmental community was necessary to develop mutually beneficial vegetation management plans.
Integrated Vegetation Management or IVM had been shown to effectively meet both primary and secondary objectives over years of transmission habitat studies by Drs Bramble and Byrnes at Gamelands 33 near State College, PA. Johnstone learned and applied that research on the Delmarva coastal plain he managed and noted that when trees and invasive plants were controlled by selective herbicide treatments, a wide variety of wildlife species benefited. Sometimes even rare flowers germinated when competition from trees and invasive plants was eliminated.
During one of the EEI – Federal Agency meetings in Washington, DC, Johnstone visited with staff of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) with his idea of developing an entity that understood the objectives of both utilities and public land management agencies and could act as a liaison between them. A function of this entity would be to develop case studies of different ecosystems to demonstrate the transformation of plant communities that could be expected depending on how vegetation was managed.
NFWF liked the idea but advised that federal grant dollars would only be available to a non-profit corporation. Johnstone took that advice and floated his idea to several non-profits, and when they failed to grasp the importance of the needed entity, he formed a new non-profit to meet the need;
Integrated Vegetation Management Partners, Inc. or IVM Partners was born August 14, 2003.
He immediately went to work documenting plant community changes on herbicide treated and non-treated control areas at Chesapeake Farms, a wildlife and agricultural research farm on the upper Chesapeake Eastern Shore of Maryland. An educational workshop and field tour was conducted for EEI and all the federal land management agencies at this site in the fall of 2005. The federal agencies and EEI signed a memorandum of understanding in May 2006 that recognized IVM as the most environmentally responsible method of managing utility ROW on federal lands.