Since November, West Virginia Division of Highways maintenance crews have cleared more than 170 acres of trees and branches overhanging West Virginia's roadways.
That's enough trees and branches to fill up about 170 football fields. The process is called canopy clearing, and WVDOH maintenance crews have cleared trees and branches along more than 500 linear miles of roadway.
Moisture left on pavement degrades asphalt fast, so maintenance crews cut away limbs and branches to allow sunlight to get to the roadways below.
Like cutting grass in the summer, milling and filling potholes or clearing ice and snow, canopy clearing is part of the WVDOH core maintenance program.
By law, maintenance crews are only allowed to clear canopy between Nov. 15 and March 31. The restriction is in place to protect endangered bat populations, which don’t typically use trees during those months.
This time of year is also snow removal and ice control season for WVDOH; so a worker may be in a snow plow one day and in a bucket truck the next.
In the past, the WVDOH was restricted to cutting a total of 140 acres of canopy a year, or 14 acres for each of the state's 10 highway districts. That restriction was lifted this year, allowing districts to cut more trees in between the winter snows.
Maintenance crews use bucket trucks, chainsaws, pole saws and chippers to clear away branches and limbs and grind them up. Bucket trucks have a reach of 40 feet, but maintenance crews have pole saws that are up to 175 feet long for reaching the highest branches.