Tree Cutting – What’s Allowed, What’s Not


Although final state permits have not been received in North Carolina or Virginia, Dominion contractors (all from out of state – showing the lie of the “jobs for Virginians” PR) have begun to cut trees – with limited approval from FERC– on certain properties IF the property owners have already signed easements with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

However (no surprise) ACP does not appear to be strictly playing by the rules.

It has come to our attention that Dominion is engaging in the misleading tactic of contacting property owners who have NOT signed easement agreements, by letter and/or by phone, asking to cut trees on their properties. ACP cannot force landowners who have not signed an easement to let crews start cutting on their land. Unless you have signed an easement, they have no rights to be on your property or to cut trees there. Dominion/ACP is pushing hard to cut as much as they can because regulations protecting bats and migratory birds limit the legal window they have for tree-cutting. They may only cut through March 31. Delaying cutting for even a couple of months now will result in a delay until November 2018 — and much else can happen during that time.

Here is a list of what Dominion/ACP is and is not allowed to do:

  1. Contractors may cut trees ONLY on properties for which Dominion has a signed easement agreement.  No felling may occur on National Forest lands at this time.  Additionally, contractors may cut trees ONLY in upland areas and ONLY on select sections of the route which FERC has specifically approved. In Nelson County, there are only two short stretches approved:
    A. Between the Blue Ridge Parkway and Wintergreen’s Fortunes Point (ACP mile markers ~158.2 – 159.5), and
    B. In Wingina from approximately Cabell Road to the James River (ACP mile markers 183.2-184.3).
    (For locations approved in other counties, see: http://elibrary.FERC.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20180119-5004)
  2. No mechanized methods are allowed. That means no wheeled, tracked, or other equipment is authorized for any clearing-related activity, and contractors may use ONLY equipment that can be operated and carried by hand, by an individual (i.e. chainsaws).
  3. Although they may access the site as stipulated in your easement, improvement or modification of approved access roads is NOT authorized, and use of U.S. Forest Service access roads is not permitted until ACP obtains the applicable road use permit(s).
  4. Ground disturbance is not allowed, and in certain terrain that could potentially preclude the use of any vehicles. We encourage you to request that they walk in from public roads and, if they won’t, we ask you to photograph any damage or ruts they leave.
  5. Contractors may only cross wetlands and waterbodies on foot.
  6. Trees and vegetation may be felled at or above ground level, BUT ONLY using methods that will not rut soils or damage root systems, and in a way that avoids obstruction of flow, rutting, and sedimentation of wetlands and waterbodies.
  7. Tree felling may NOT occur within waterbodies and wetlands, and a 50-foot buffer must be maintained between waterbody and wetland boundaries and the tree-cutting activities.
  8. Felled trees and woody and other vegetation debris MUST BE LEFT IN PLACE until further authorization for any earth-disturbing activities or equipment use is granted by the FERC.

If Dominion/ACP contacts you or anyone you know to ask for permission to fell trees on your property, tell them NO. They have NO right to be there unless you have signed an easement and your property is located in the specific stretches of the route mentioned above. (Contact Friends of Nelson if you are unsure.)

If you witness what you believe to be violations of any of the approved processes above, please try to take some photographs to document the situation and immediately notify:

  • Sarah.McKinley@ferc.gov, 202-502-8368 (Please refer specifically to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline), or
  • Notify public affairs at the FERC to report violations via these avenues: Public Inquiries: Local: 202-502-6088. TTY: 202-502-8659, Toll-free: 866-208-3372, or customer@ferc.gov

When reporting a violation, you will be asked for specific locations.

Friends of Nelson also asks that you notify us: friendsofnelson@gmail.com – or phone our landowner hotline, 434-260-3299 (text preferred, someone will call you back), and strongly recommends that you also notify Governor Northam’s office (804-786-2211).