Pepco’s Tree Hit List and Why Should We Care

Pepco’s aggressive tree cutting this past summer in the rural areas of the County was nothing short of haphazard,  shockingly leveling healthy trees on the opposite site of the road from power lines and outside of utility corridor (as was the case above along a stream that feeds the Potomac). Pepco finally released a report that explains some of their methodology. Pepco, we were told, will be targeting certain species of trees that grow in the County, many native species. Which ones? The short answer: Nearly all of them. It should be noted that many of the trees that are celebrated along the County’s designated rural and rustic byways are on the list and therefore subject to removal.

Pepco’s list (Montgomery County falls into the Central Region, denoted by a “C” on the chart) is quite exhaustive, taking issue with all species of oaks, hickories, maples, cherries and sycamores, even finding fault with bamboo. Pepco’s plan is to target all the trees on this list, despite the health of the tree, taking out all canopy species that have taken generations to grow along roadsides.What sort of trees does Pepco want along roads? Small, mostly non-native species- Pepco’s tree trimming brochure.

Pepco was unsuccessful in their bid to get permission to cut on private property without the owner’s permission in a Council hearing last year. Property owners still have the right to refuse Pepco access to their properties, with an all out war declared on most native tree species, it is no wonder that hundreds of county residents are denying Pepco the right to even trim their trees.

MCA continues to work with Pepco and the county to  make sure that best practices (as designated by certified arborists)  are employed along our rustic roads. We seek appropriate balance between reliable power and preserving our roadside forests.  This all comes at a time when County preservationists via Conservation Montgomery are pressing forward with a urban tree legislation.

Pepco full tree report

Previous Pepco posts

Benefits of Preserving and Protecting Large Trees by Audubon Staff

Carbon Sequestration:  Trees do more than we knew…

Pepco’s Aggressive Tree Cutting…

Update: The Council heard from Pepco and concerned residents on Monday July 18th. Pepco was roundly criticized for their overzealous tree trimming and denied the right to cut trees on private property without owner consent.On the whole, council members urged Pepco to work with established best practices to balance the need for trimming (not butchering) with the need to protect healthy trees.

The hearing laid bare a few systemic problems that need to be addressed. Currently, the office responsible for the health of roadside trees is under the Department of Transportation, a department which sides with Pepco’s tree decisions 98% of the time, often in opposition to the trained DOT arborist (and we assume, industry best practices). The care of these roadside trees should be under a county-wide department that better balances the sound advice of trained arborists with Pepco’s reliability goals.

Some upcounty farmers in attendance brought up that over grown trees in the right-of-way can sometimes make roads unsafe for large farm equipment. While there are some roads where this is the case, this is a matter for DOT and the Rustic Roads department. Pepco (despite recent developments) should not be in the tree trimming business, but in the power delivery business, part of which is selectively trimming trees that impede those goals, but no more than that.

Thanks to all those that wrote in with concerns to the Council. MCA will continue to work with Pepco and the County to find a proper balance between reliability and the health of roadside forests under arborist certified best practices.

Press on the Hearing:
N. Potomac Patch
Washington Post

Read on for previous posts…..

The sound of chainsaws is not a typical summer soundtrack on the County’s rural roads. Pepco has been been out and force not just trimming but decimating trees along rural roads. Some because, despite being native members of Maryland’s forests, Pepco insists they are “the wrong species”, some are on the other side of the road from the lines and are perfectly healthy. Much of this cutting is happening in conflict with Rustic Roads designations and the Master Plan. One heartbreaking example- a 147 year old native Hackberry tree with a fully healthy canopy along a stream bed that feeds the Potomac off West Willard rd. pictured above.

The Council will hear from Pepco and the community on Monday the 18th. Letters expressing concern with Pepco’s overzealous tree trimming should be sent to before the meeting. MCA has been asked to testify at the hearing.  It is worth noting thanks to Council members Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner for their leadership on this issue.

Please note: this tree work is merely stage 1 – Pepco has said they intend to clear much more…unless we press the Council to rein them in. Pepco is asking the Council to be granted authority to cut trees without land owner permission. Bad idea…bad precedent. A balance must be struck between reliable power and our roadside trees.

Click Here to see our action alert for more information.

A Press Roundup on Pepco’s over ambitious tree cutting

N. Potomac Patch
Washington Examiner

Read on for a previous post….

Calls have been coming in from all over the Reserve as Pepco’s tree crews have arrived and are fulfilling work orders to aggressively clear the power lines.  While reliable service is universally desired, so too is sensitivity to the Reserve’s treasured rustic roadways.  Attempts to arrange a site visit with Pepco staff, started this winter, have failed.  The aim of the field trip was to arrive at a tree maintenance program that would achieve safety and preservation, something we could all be proud of.  This certainly, would have offered Pepco an opportunity to be viewed as good neighbor and steward.  Hasn’t happened and our initial optimism is waning. click here for our email to the County regarding the cutting.

The pictures above taken in the Reserve on Hughes and Budd Roads tell only part of the story – Blackrock Road, Berryville Road, River Road and points south have all faced the over zealous tree cutting.

Note:  Pepco Reliability Work Group report:  cites the state law that gives property owners veto rights to tree removal.  That’s right…your tree, your say.  It should be noted that Pepco would like to have the control over the vegetation and the Working Group suggests that might be considered.  This will be a matter of some debate.  Moreover, and they don’t broadcast this, live trees removed by Pepco with permission should garner a tree purchase voucher of up to $200 per tree.  Pepco will provide you a preferred list of tree species to select from.

See also:  Washington Post Analysis of Pepco Outages and this letter to the editor in the Gazette on this subject.  Send us your photos and stories…we will continue to try to get Pepco to bring their maintenance in line with the County’s preservation goals and master plan.

On a separate but related note:  MCA has agreed to work with County Department of Transportation and area farmers to identify specific vegetation issues that inhibit conduct of farm machinery and vehicular safety.  If you have specific locations, such as the intersection of Sugarland and Partnership Roads, send them to

A Citizen’s Plan for Gaithersburg

Neighbors in the Frederick Ave Corridor of Gaithersburg have seen the new plan for their neighborhood and have offered a plan of their own in response. The new plan still provides mixed use and infill but residents were able to keep this added density in scale with existing structures.

Both the city’s plan and the citizen’s plan will come up at a worksession on July 11. See the Citizen’s Plan here

Reserve Farm Photo Slide Show

MCA was pleased to take part in the Poolesville High School Global Ecology fair a few months back. One student project was more locally focused than most. Joshua Ballard is a PHS student and Reserve resident who took camera in hand to several Reserve farms, the result is a photo slide show showcasing the diverse growing practices and philosophies of Reserve Farms, and the need for their protection.

Click here to see the show

Special thanks to Sugarloaf Citizen’s Association for sponsoring Josh’s project.