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A Forester Plants His Roots in Indiana

Posted on 5/25/2016


Written by: Claire Dalton, Social Media Community Manager

The first traces of morning light dance across them. The last traces of dusk turn their colors golden. Our Instagram feeds are filled with them. Our outdoor walks with loved ones are lined with them. Trees bring beauty, oxygen and a fulfilling life to our everyday world. Each spring, we appreciate and welcome their striking beauty after a bleak, dark winter.

Few understand a tree's beauty and importance better than Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) Forester Mike Baldwin. For 45 years, he has poured his heart and soul into caring for and maintaining Indiana's urban forests. As a forester, Baldwin has studied the science of growing and taking care of trees and land. He understands how trees, land, water and wildlife all need each other. It is with this knowledge that Baldwin has been tasked with demanding projects to maintain and promote tree health while improving the way IPL provides reliable service to its customers.

Ranked among one of Baldwin's proudest achievements include changing the route of a new transmission line. He was able to use his forestry expertise to see that IPL could install a new transmission line without having to clear more than 1,000 trees.

"Every time I see those jobs I always think that I was able to save those trees and the lakeshore to avoid erosion and others kinds of problems in the future." 

Other times, Baldwin's experience and knowledge is called upon for more unusual jobs.

The year was 1996, and Baldwin was tasked with clearing the way of trees and other obstructions for a 200-ton transformer making its way from Evansville to IPL's Petersburg Generation Station via a railroad locomotive. Baldwin had never been tasked with a project like this, but he and his tree crew were up to the demanding project. Starting at dusk, Baldwin and his crew worked into the night moving slowly along the railroad track on the locomotive through bayous, fog and many acres of farm country looking for trees to trim in the dead of night.

"It was very interesting to see the fog rise in the morning, and then when we finally got to Petersburg there were people, lights and cranes all waiting for us; it was the most tremendous thing to get the transformer there."

Just like other industries, electric utilities understand the importance of trees and need trees to ensure reliable service to customers by providing wooden poles for electric lines. However, trees and electricity can be a dangerous combination.

"We have to maintain a certain distance to provide safe and reliable electricity to our customers. When a tree limb is entangled in a power line, we trim it the correct way, which is by directional pruning."

Directional pruning is a technique used to change the direction of future growth, which would be away from the power lines and other obstructions. Baldwin wishes IPL didn't have to interfere with trees, but sometimes IPL has to in order to prevent safety hazards and power outages.

Misplaced or improperly maintained trees can cause power outages. Through efforts like Right Tree Right Place, Trees for Tomorrow and Indy Free Tree, Baldwin is able to educate the public and promote awareness of the importance of trees and how to safely plant and maintain them so they can be enjoyed by current and future residents for generations to come.

"That was the fun part, because generally, people are very happy to see you when you're there to plant a tree. We were also able to help the Indianapolis Parks & Recreation Department in getting more trees planted in Indianapolis, which helped out neighborhoods that needed trees."

As we take photos of beautiful spring-time blossoms of Red Buds and Tulip trees to post to our social media feeds and comment about how happy we all are that spring has finally sprung, it's important to remember without dedicated and passionate people like Baldwin to care for and maintain Indiana's urban forests, our world (and social feeds!) would not be nearly as beautiful and earthly.

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