City Trees

January/February 2011

City Trees is a premier publication focused on urban + community forestry. In each issue, you’ll learn how to best manage the trees in your community and more!

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Page 13 of 39

Partners Updates Utility Arborist Association Utility Arborist Profile: Mike Robinson, Jacksonville Electric Authority, Jacksonville Florida Mike Robinson is a 2010 recipient of the International Society of Arboriculture’s True Professional Award for his work with municipal leaders to develop a plan to care for trees near utility and electrical lines, a plan that has become a model across the United States. Mike Robinson: I graduated in 1978 from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Forest Resources and Conservation. I got started in my career through a wrong-num- ber phone call, when the Duval County, Florida Urban Forester called me, the Indian River County Forester, by accident. It was 1979 and the state wanted to hire foresters on an annual contract to oversee and begin a line clearance program. When given the specifics of the job, all I heard was a 50% raise over what I was making at the time, and I jumped at the chance. I’d also worked for a year and a half with the Florida Division of Forestry (DOF) as a firefighter. The DOF firefighting training was a good prepara- tion for how to manage storm restoration. Both firefighters and utility arborists (during a storm) must make split decisions and size up impacts with little information. I am currently a Jacksonville Energy Authority (JEA) Forester working alongside two other foresters and two ISA certified arborists to address all vegetation management issues for JEA. This includes 3500 miles of overhead electric distribution lines, nearly the same in underground electric, 700 miles of transmission lines, and 7000 miles of water and wastewater piping system. JEA is the eighth-largest municipal owned utility in the U.S. and the largest in Florida. The city of Jacksonville in Duval County is the second largest city in the U.S. at over 840 square miles of area. My greatest challenge is dealing with a changing marketplace regarding electric reliability. Many of the heavily treed sections of our area are being developed. This leaves the older residents who want to keep the tree canopy at odds with the new 14 residents want- ing uninterrupted power. When I began my career with JEA, cus- tomers in these areas expected and tolerated out- ages during our afternoon thun- derstorms. With the advent of heavy technology use, especially telecommuting, this is no longer acceptable. Mike Robinson Price used to be the driving issue in our industry, but price is rapidly giving way to reliability, as evi- denced by the FERC rules for transmission. Utilities are spending huge sums of money to ensure trans- mission lines are uninterrupted and paying large fines when they are not. UAA has been a great resource for me. I hope it continues the production of Utility Arborist Newsline and the partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation for the Partners in Community Forestry Conference. I fully enjoyed the times I attended these confer- ences. It was reassuring to hear and see that we all face the same sort of problems. As utility arborists, we touch more trees in the com- munity than any other group by far. We have greater exposure to the public and can influence public per- ception more so than any other profession, but we are lacking in our efforts to that end. Addressing the public is not something we do naturally; as foresters we are more comfortable being in the woods, dealing with our trees. We have to step up, outside our comfort zones, and do a better job of explaining our methods. It’s hard to believe, but I am planning to retire in 2014! I hope to spend much of my retirement traveling across the United States. What little trav- eling I have done just reinforces what a great and diverse country this is. City Trees

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