There is an especially ugly dimension to the 15-foot rule that I would like to highlight, using Land Between the Lakes as an illustration. The destruction at Land Between the Lakes – cutting down every tree in the right-of-way, thousands of trees, including vast numbers of 40-100-year-old trees – was accomplished between February and July of 2015. That included the entire 2015 nesting season for most species of birds and other wildlife. The TVA right-of-way is excellent habitat for birds. Bird species that live and nest in this kind of habitat include bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, bluebirds, catbirds, mockingbirds, cardinals, chickadees and almost any other kind of bird that you can think of. By cutting down this vast number of trees during nesting season, TVA destroyed thousands of active nests of birds and other wildlife that make their nests in trees, including squirrels, raccoons, and opossums, senselessly killing thousands of baby birds and animals of various kinds.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that TVA has now really suspended the 15-foot rule. But the anonymous TVA officers responsible for the policy employed the 15-foot rule straight through six successive nesting seasons from 2012 through 2016. It is hard to imagine how many baby birds and animals of all descriptions TVA killed during that time period. That is an appalling lack of regard for wildlife.
We believe that TVA is now using giant “lawnmowers” that it lifts above the trees and then lowers to the ground, reducing a 100-year-old tree to mulch in just a few minutes. TVA also uses wood chippers. Whatever way they do it, when the trees contain active nests and baby birds and other animals, they are simply shredded along with the tree. Included in the evidence that we filed in court was a video of a TVA wood chipper in the Bearden area of Knoxville during the 2012 nesting season. (See video below.) They would not let us inspect this particular tree to see if it had active nests or baby birds, but the odds are that it did.