U of M researchers tell Manitoba Hydro to mow less

University of Manitoba researchers have an idea that they say will save Manitoba Hydro money: mow less.

Letting grass grow would help wildlife, save money, researchers say; Hydro says it has to mow to avoid hazards

Two researchers from the University of Manitoba say Manitoba Hydro could mow less under power lines to save money and attract butterflies and birds. (Submitted)

University of Manitoba researchers have an idea that they say will save Manitoba Hydro money: mow less.

Nicola Koper and Lionel Leston published studies in two journals this year — Landscape and Urban Planning, and Avian Conservation and Ecology — showing if mowing and herbicide use under some sections of power lines were curbed, the grass underneath the lines would attract more species of butterflies, including threatened monarch butterflies, along with bird species.

The researchers, who used a grant from Manitoba Hydro for their work, said the grass is usually ignored by conservationists and the public. Koper and Leston said Manitoba Hydro would save cash by mowing less and suggested the money saved could be used to plant native grass and wildflowers.

The researchers say threatened monarch butterflies and bird species would be attracted if Manitoba Hydro mowed less. (Submitted)

"This can be a win-win for wildlife and industry," said Koper in a media release. The researchers said the changes would make power lines beneficial to prairie wildlife, which is under threat. The researchers say just one per cent of Manitoba's original 6,000 square kilometres of tall-grass prairies remains today.

Need to cut for safety: Hydro

Manitoba Hydro said it's reviewing the study but needs to mow right-of-ways in urban areas to control weeds.

Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen said herbicides are used to limit tree growth in areas close to power lines because tree contact is one of the leading causes of unplanned power outages in the province.

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Owen said vegetation control is also needed so Hydro crews can access lines to make repairs and during emergencies.

Still, Leston said Hydro doesn't have to mow areas completely and could be more careful going forward.

"You could leave certain sections," he said.