The State Game Lands (SGL) 33 Research and Demonstration Project has been in existence since 1953, which makes this project the longest continuous study documenting the effects of mechanical and herbicide maintenance treatments on plants and animals on an electric transmission right-of-way (ROW). Results obtained by this study are invaluable from management and ecological perspectives by providing an understanding of the response of plant and wildlife communities to ROW maintenance practices, with the ROW considered as a functional ecosystem.
The project began in response to hunters concerns about the effects of herbicides on game species. Hence, one of the initial objectives of the project, which has continued over the years, is to determine the effect of mechanical and herbicide maintenance treatments on wildlife habitat and selected wildlife species of high public interest. Results of these studies over the years have resulted in numerous publications, presentations, and videos directed at scientists, the public, and ROW managers.
Wildlife use of the State Game Lands 33 right-of-way has been a focus of this study since 1953 because many outdoor enthusiasts – birders, hikers, hunters, and others – often use powerline rights-of-way as recreational sites. Over the years, the researchers have noted that wildlife, such as black bear and squirrels, feed extensively on the fruit of witch hazel, scrub oak, blueberries, and blackberries; deer browse and graze on blackberry, sweet fern, grasses, goldenrod, whorled loosestrife, and other native plants; and songbird family groups forage extensively in search of insects in the vegetation present on the ROW. Thus, wildlife habitat conditions created by herbicide applications provide abundant sources of food and cover for numerous species.