For the Utility Arborist Association, 2016-2017 is a period of change, or I should say “continuous improvement.” On behalf of the UAA, I want to thank our many partners, both individuals and organizations, for their continued guidance and engagement. Our partnerships with the Arbor Day Foundation, the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the Southern Chapter ISA, the Right-of-Way Stewardship Council (ROWSC), the Utility Vegetation Management Association, the many utility vegetation management (UVM) service providers and T&D World are recognized, important, valued and necessary for our continued growth and brand development.
Our partnership with T&D World involves many people and different groups across our industry who work together to maximize efficiency and reach common goals, one being that of professional development. As the UAA continues to grow beyond 5,500 members who are dedicated to applying safe, sustainable, economical and environmentally responsible UVM practices, the annual T&D World “Vegetation Management” supplement helps these UVM practitioners and others keep current, which ultimately helps support overall stewardship philosophies focused on continuous improvement. An added benefit is the supplement’s reach to non-UVM professionals, such as managers, directors and the senior leadership in our organizations, which can lead to greater collaboration and improved long-range UVM decisions.
Over the course of the last 18 months, safety has become the UAA’s No. 1 core value. Safety culture is an essential concept that creates the setting within a company or industry where individual positive safety attitudes develop and grow, and where behaving with safety in the forefront is promoted and recognized. To help others recognize how important safety is in our industry, the UAA held three Safety Summits in 2016 and has plans for at least three more in 2017. In addition, our safety and marketing committees are developing a short video illustrating the importance of safety while working near high-voltage facilities. The video will be targeted toward commercial arboriculture practitioners who are not in the line-clearance industry. We plan to show the video at this year’s ISA conference in Washington, D.C.
Another great accomplishment is the UAA safety committee’s inception of the Silver Shield program. The goal of the Silver Shield program is to recognize individuals who perpetuate and inspire safety wherever they go during work and play. At the 2016 UAA luncheon and business meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, the first Silver Shield awards were presented to Will Nutter of Wright Tree Service and Kevin Myers of ACRT. These elite champions will hold this title for life.
Research is another key component of the UAA’s renewed vision. Several individuals spoke with excitement about their ideas for research projects at the UAA luncheon and business meeting in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in February 2016. I predict that more tree research and education projects will come to fruition with the help of the ever-growing Utility Arboriculture Research Fund (UARF). Eric Smith, president and CEO of the TREE Fund, reports that as of Dec. 31, 2016, the UARF had a balance of $780,968 and growth for the year was more than 100%. Visit treefund.com for more information on the endowment fund.
The ROWSC and its accreditation program warrant special mention. Historically, the accreditation program has recognized a utility’s excellence in the application of sustainable integrated vegetation management along its electric transmission rights-of-way. Currently, seven electric transmission utilities are accredited through the program, all of whom are considered founding utilities. Until last year, the accreditation program was solely targeted toward electric transmission utilities, but recently, the ROWSC revised its criteria to consider other rights-of-way such as pipelines. In December 2016, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. became the first natural gas pipeline owner/operator to become accredited and recognized as a founding utility. We are excited for this growth in the program and for PG&E’s election.
Finally, the UAA is an organization that gets things done primarily through member engagement and participation, all of which is voluntary. Our members are employees of utilities, companies in the line-clearance business and UVM consultants, and they all need the continued support of their employers to attend regional meetings, participate on committees, and share their knowledge and expertise with the industry. As the UAA follows its guiding mission of “driving excellence, innovation and change through professional development, outreach, research and the promotion of best practices,” we certainly could not do it without the continued dedication of our members and their employers as well as our wonderful partners.
We look forward to working together for another productive year.