Episode 4: What We Still Need to Learn as an Industry w/ BioCompliance’s John Goodfellow

Welcome to the Fourth Episode of Trees and Lines: Fresh Perspectives on Utility Vegetation Management!

This week we are joined by John Goodfellow, one of the biggest influences in the utility vegetation management industry over the last four decades. Some of John’s most recent work has really changed the way industry professionals look at transmission and distribution vegetation management.

Fun Fact: John joined us from a boat anchored in Blind Bay, Shaw Island in the San Juan Islands.



John got his start in UVM (utility vegetation management) in 1978 after graduating from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Since then, John has contributed to the improvement of the UVM industry through several projects. John truly believes in “the idea that less is more.” John is passionate about much of the work he has done in UVM but he is most proud of two things:

“Whether it is the concept of integrative vegetation management, where you use compatible plants to suppress the invasion by the incompatible or by properly pruning a tree, reduce the growth response you can really gain. The second space is the electrical characteristics of trees, how trees cause interruptions that become outages, or how they don’t.”

Utility Vegetation Management Leaders

Some of the companies that John finds to be leading the industry are New York Power Authority, First Energy, Duke Energy, and National Grid to name a few. He is confident that companies in the space are moving in the right direction and adopting the correct concepts.

The Current State of John’s Utility Vegetation Management Research

John’s bodies of work are focused on topics like electrical incidents involving injuries and fatalities, wildfires, R&D (research and development), and technology. John’s current project is a collaboration on a research grant with Dr. John Ball to analyze the exposure that arborists have to electrical issues in trees while they’re working. John hopes that this research will dispel myths surrounding the factors that create a risk to individuals who work around trees and will instead bring more attention to the actual causes. The idea is that this will help inform the development of the C 133 Chapter 4 standard (electrical safety standard for arborists). Another interesting collaboration that John has taken part in was actually in conjunction with Phil. Many of the projects that John has worked on are not necessarily benefiting economically, but he enjoys being involved in things that are professionally satisfying.

Fun Fact: John referred to his earliest studies as “the firewood studies.” Twenty-two different species of plant material from all over the country would come to his lab in Redmond, Washington. Because these species could only be used once, they would become firewood when he was finished with them.

The Future of UVM: Human Capital and Technological Advancements

As for the future of technology in UVM, John is optimistic. However, he believes that there needs to be more development in that space for technology to be a true facilitator in the industry. The true value still lies with the industry’s human capital. Utility vegetation management “cannot be effective if you completely decouple yourself from the field. You’ve got to understand what conditions are really like and what’s going on.”

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