Pollinator Conservation | Vegetation and Power Lines | Wildlife Protection and Resource Conservation Programs | Endangered Fish and Bird Recovery Program

Updated: May 2024

With more than 34,000 square miles in our service territory, proper land use and maintaining biodiversity are important components of our business decisions. As stated in our Code of Ethics, we are committed to preserving our planet through environmental stewardship that includes considering the environmental impact and risk assessment of each decision we make, and complying with all environmental laws and regulation, going beyond compliance when appropriate. Our choices recognize the inherent value of the natural world, minimize our impacts on the environment and preserve natural resources. We are committed to providing reliable, affordable and clean energy while maintaining Arizona’s healthy environment.

The Vice President of Transmission and Distribution Operations has governance over biodiversity issues, which are managed by the Forestry, Fire & Resource Management Department (FFRM). This team uses best practices to manage vegetation growing  in proximity to our facilities and equipment, including substations, overhead power lines and poles, to ensure safe and reliable delivery of energy. APS’s transmission facilities consist of approximately 5,917 miles of transmission lines and approximately 34,893  miles of distribution lines, with almost 11,300 miles of those being overhead distribution lines. In 2023, FFRM cleared potentially hazardous vegetation from 3,382 overhead distribution miles on 318 distribution feeders and from 2,011 transmission miles on 83 transmission circuits.

Our FFRM team has a dedicated staff of natural resource professionals, including foresters, arborists, biologists and archaeologists. They work to ensure we comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other applicable statutes and regulations to protect biodiversity in our service territory. In addition, a variety of operations-related environmental programs are in place to manage vegetation in and around our facilities and rights-of-way to create habitat and keep areas available to support wildfire safety.

Pollinator Conservation

Arizona is an important stop for pollinators as they travel between the tropics and their northern breeding grounds. Thousands of acres of APS utility rights-of-way cross Arizona ecosystems to bring energy to our customers. We oversee these habitats through Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM), which helps attract and sustain butterflies, bees and other pollinators. There are about 4,000 species native to Arizona that require pollinators, so the possibilities for our landscape plans are seemingly endless.

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Through IVM there is potential to enhance habitat via well-designed, ecologically meaningful and cost-effective actions. To help with this goal, we are managing and conserving the land under our transmission and distribution lines to attract pollinators.

We are aligned with the Electric Power Research Institute Power in Pollinators Initiative. This initiative is the largest collaborative project designed for energy companies and pollinators. This initiative provides us the opportunity to collaborate with our peer utilities and keeps us informed of tools and best practices that can be integrated into our programs.

Vegetation and Power Lines

We are committed to maintaining natural vegetation to preserve Arizona’s landscape. We work year-round to minimize the risk of wildfires in addition to keeping public safety and service reliability as top priorities.

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Fire Mitigation.In Arizona, approximately half of the primary structures are located near the wildland-urban interface (WUI). APS plans to continue its comprehensive forest management programs aimed at reducing wildfires, as those risks become compounded by shorter, drier winters and longer, hotter summers due to climate change. These changes in weather patterns pose a fire risk to the communities we serve.

Learn more about our fire mitigation strategies and activity.

Integrated Vegetation Management.We’ve maintained natural vegetation by implementing an integrated vegetation management (IVM) program for our transmission and distribution corridors, which enables us to support Arizona’s diverse natural resources.

IVM applies biological, chemical, cultural, manual, and mechanical practices to promote healthy ecosystems that provide greater species diversity. We are accredited by the Right-of-Way Stewardship Council (ROWSC), which establishes standards for responsible right-of-way vegetation management along transmission corridors. The ROWSC promotes the application of IVM and best management practices to corridors maintained by utility vegetation managers to ensure power system reliability and preserve and promote plant and animal biodiversity. We are a Founding Accredited Utility and are accredited through 2024. In our 2023 audit, we received acknowledgment for demonstrating “ongoing progress and continuing commitment to sustainable IVM”. The accreditation recognizes our vegetation management program as a best-in-class performer—we are one of only nine utilities in North America to receive it.

Right Tree, Right Place. We are committed to educating customers and encouraging our communities to plant trees based on the standards established in our “Right Tree, Right Place” program. This program promotes safe vegetation planting near power lines. Additionally, the program supports the local plant nursery industry, landscaping companies and encourages homeowners to choose and plant vegetation for a lifetime of beauty, safety and reliable power for their homes and businesses by promoting the planting of compatible species within and adjacent to power lines.

Community Engagement. We educate community members about vegetation and power lines by hosting Arbor Day celebrations at schools and municipal parks statewide. Activities such as tree-planting events on school or park grounds educate the public about the importance of trees in the environment.

We have received the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Line USA Award for the past 28 years. The award recognizes best practices in public and private utility arboriculture, demonstrating how trees and utilities can co-exist for the benefit of communities and citizens.

Beyond our Arbor Day tree plantings and community events, APS offers a Community Tree Program. Through this program, APS offers grant funding to qualified organizations for community-based tree-planting projects. This focuses on serving vulnerable communities, such as Title 1 School Districts, working with non-profits and neighborhood associations, along with cities and towns. In 2023, this program allowed for the planting of 386 trees in 14 schools, with seven different non-profits, city parks, and towns.

Wildlife Protection and Resource Conservation Programs

We are committed to preserving plants, animals and their habitat needs by considering the environmental impact and assessing the risk of each decision we make, complying with all environmental laws and regulations and going beyond compliance when appropriate.

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Avian and Wildlife Protection: The Avian and Wildlife Protection Program was created in the early 2000’s to address the interplay between all bird species in Arizona and power lines and equipment. Eagles, hawks, owls and other birds are attracted to power poles as a place to perch, roost, nest and hunt. Because the large wingspans of these birds make them vulnerable to electrocution, the program helps implement changes to reduce the occurrence of electrocutions.

In addition to minimizing injury to wildlife, the program also improves the reliability of our energy delivery system by reducing outages and avian caused fires. To mitigate electrical contact, we adopted and practice proactive best-management construction standards and design strategies from the Edison Electric Institute’s Avian Power Line Interaction Committee.

The Avian and Wildlife Protection Program protects birds that build nests on electrical equipment. A utility pole nest platform that we developed can be installed in a safe location if nests pose a hazard for birds and equipment or have the potential to cause a fire. We partner with wildlife rehabilitation organizations such as Liberty Wildlife to relocate eggs and chicks safely.

Learn more about our avian and wildlife protection program.

Resource Conservation: We have implemented a wide range of resource conservation programs to protect threatened and endangered plants and animals. We partner with federal and state agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Game and Fish Department and U.S. Forest Service. Comprehensive analysis and consultation are conducted with our agency partners to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act and conservation measures are implemented for the protection of threatened and endangered plants, animals and their habitats. We also support local initiatives to protect sensitive wildlife and rare plants. We collaborate with environmental and conservation organizations and agencies on public education and awareness programs, habitat-enhancement projects, biological assessments, and species-conservation plans.

Endangered Fish and Bird Recovery Program

The Biological Opinion for the Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine Energy Project, developed as part of a Section 7 consultation conducted when renewing the plant and mine permits, was implemented in 2016 and will extend through 2041.

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As part of the settlement, Four Corners and the Navajo Mine agreed to reduce potential impacts associated with their operation by implementing certain Reasonable and Prudent Measures (RPMs) designed to protect endangered fish (Colorado Pikeminnow, Razorback Sucker) in the San Juan River and birds (Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo) in the plant’s deposition area.

Highlights from RPM work performed in 2023:

  • The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation was funded a total of $667,722.00 (APS - $534,178.00 and NTEC - $133,544.00) in support of 2023 Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine Energy Project recovery actions. These funds are used for endangered fish breeding and stocking, habitat enhancement, fish life-cycle studies, and paying the salary of a fisheries biologist to support the San Juan Recovery Implementation Program.
  • The Southwest Willow Flycatcher (SWFC) survey report was submitted to United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on August 15, 2023. The migratory Southwest Willow Flycatchers were recorded in the first two of the three surveys at the Nenahnezad and Morgan Lake survey areas. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo (YBC) protocol report was submitted to USFWS on September 19, 2023. No Yellow-billed Cuckoos were detected in 2023.
  • APS continued work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Bureau of Reclamation on a preliminary design for a fish passage at the APS weir in the San Juan River intended to remove partial impediments to endangered fish movement and increase potential spawning habitat.

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