Long, spiky leaves didn’t deter volunteers and UniSource employees from rescuing more than a dozen Joshua trees last month from a worksite north of Kingman.

To improve service reliability, UniSource is planning to build a 69-kilovolt (kV) sub-transmission line and a new substation on 2.5 acres near the growing community of Meadview.

The substation site is located amid a dense, high desert forest of Joshua trees, which have lifespans of up to 200 years and live only in the Mojave Desert. Although UniSource was not required by federal or state law to preserve the plants, our Land Resources team reached out to Friends of Arizona Joshua Tree Forest for help with relocating 21 trees from the substation site. The nonprofit group works with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve Arizona’s Joshua Tree Forest on the Grapevine Mesa.

“We’re committed to providing our customers with the best service possible, but we also want to be good stewards of the environment,” said Leslie Carpenter, a Senior Environmental and Land Planner. “We recognize the importance of preserving such a unique and sensitive area, and we’re proud to be partners with Friends of Arizona Joshua Tree Forest on this project.”

Pam Steffen, one of the Friends’ founders and a Meadview resident, said the group’s volunteers were more than happy to help with the relocation.

“I think our community sees it as a very important project. It’s a main objective of our group to preserve and protect the forest,” Steffen said. “We’re just very excited that a big company such as UniSource would be interested in transplanting trees and saving them. We hope other developers in the area will consider doing the same.”

During the two-day relocation effort, UniSource employees joined Friends’ volunteers to carefully dig up and relocate the trees under direction from a botanist, local landscapers and retired BLM employees. The team moved the trees about two miles south to an abandoned dirt road between Pierce Ferry and Diamond Bar roads.

“The team sent to complete the project was exceptional in their skills and commitment to doing the best for the trees’ survival,” Steffen said.

The Friends’ group is working with the BLM to reclaim the abandoned roadway by restoring it with Joshua trees rescued from construction sites. (Fans of U2’s top-selling album, “The Joshua Tree,” may be tickled to learn that these trees are indeed being moved to a street with no name.)

The Friends group coordinated a similar Joshua tree rescue in 2020 with the BLM and Mohave County to transplant 21 Joshua trees removed during a road realignment project.

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