Date of Completion

12-20-2019

Embargo Period

12-18-2021

Keywords

human dimensions, natural resources, media analysis, utility vegetation management, interviews, means-end chain theory

Major Advisor

Anita Morzillo

Co-Major Advisor

John Volin

Associate Advisor

Thomas Worthley

Associate Advisor

Brett Butler

Associate Advisor

Andrew Deener

Field of Study

Natural Resources: Land, Water, and Air

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access

Abstract

During major storm events in 2011 and 2012 (Tropical Storm Irene, Storm Alfred, Hurricane Sandy), approximately 90% of power outages in Connecticut were caused by falling trees or limbs. The storms brought attention to the vulnerability of utility infrastructure and, in response, more focus was placed on vegetation management. People play a role in each step of the vegetation management process: government and utility officials planning for infrastructure resilience, tree crews conducting the management, and property owners mediating management by consenting or objecting to proposed tree pruning and removal. My research explored the human dimensions of roadside vegetation management. Media coverage of storms can provide context for government and public response. I analyzed the gatekeeping, agenda setting, and framing roles of the New York Times and local newspapers when covering storm-related power outages. Government and utility officials focused on structural, large-scale solutions, while residents and businesses focused more on individual actions. Additionally, The New York Times featured residents’ perspectives more frequently than did local newspapers, which influenced framing of storm impacts and solutions suggested. In response to the storms, utility companies expanded vegetation management efforts, which generated large quantities of wood. Disposal of wood from utility vegetation management can be costly. I interviewed utility-contracted tree crews to explore opportunities for a wood recovery program as related to utility vegetation management. While participants had positive ii attitudes toward such a program, potential issues were identified, including the time required, safety concerns, and physical obstacles. Results suggested that wood recovery could be effective for reducing wood waste and providing community benefits, particularly in urban areas. Utility vegetation management is mediated by property owners’ decisions to consent or object to tree pruning or removals, which may be influenced by perceived tree amenities and disamenities. I conducted semi-structured interviews with homeowners who had consented or objected to a utility tree removal between 2014 and 2017. Participants most often identified attractiveness, shade, and privacy as amenities, and risk to power lines, trees being dead or diseased, and risk to people as disamenities. These perceptions played a role in participants’ decision-making about utility vegetation management.

Available for download on Saturday, December 18, 2021

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