The facts about brush cutting

Making Roads Safer

Dear Ingham County Resident,

The Ingham County Road Department (ICRD) is responsible under Michigan Law for maintaining approximately 1249 miles of county road.  Keeping roadways, including the shoulders and ditches, clear of brush, small trees and tree limbs - called brush cutting - is one way the ICRD tries to provide safer roads for Ingham County.

Why Do We Cut Brush:

  •   Increases the distance a motorist can see other vehicles, children and animals along the sides of the roadways.
  •   Removes vegetation that may obstruct roadside traffic signs.
  •   Helps with snow removal by reducing drifting and by providing a larger area for stockpiling snow away from the traveled portion of the road.
  •   Reduces damage to vehicles - such as school buses, fire engines, vans and trucks - which may hit overhanging limbs.
  •   Provides space for vehicles which may leave traveled portion of the roadway.
  •   Improves road drainage by keeping ditches free flowing.
  •   Allows roadways to dry faster and more completely by increasing airflow.

How Brush Is Cut:

  •   Small trees, limbs and brush are cleared a reasonable distance beyond the top of the back slope. If a ditch is not present, brush is cleared to the tree line or to the bottom of the front slope.
  •   Tree limbs are cut flush at the tree trunk, or at the primary branch.
  •   Overhanging limbs,  when full with foliage, are trimmed to 15 feet above the roadway.
  •   Small debris, like twigs, may be left following brush cutting.

Mechanical vs. Chemical:
Some governmental agencies use chemicals to control roadside brush.  Since some chemicals could adversely affect people, ground water, desired vegetation, wildflowers and domestic animals, we choose to remove brush mechanically.  We believe mechanical removal methods are better, although more costly than chemicals, in order to minimize environmental impact while maintaining our roadways.

After Brush Has Been Cut:
Due to the infrequency of brush cutting on a given portion of the road, the foliage and roadside will typically have a "severe" appearance, even an appearance that all of the foliage and brush has been removed or eliminated.  While it may be difficult, it is important to keep in mind that over a 12-24 month period of time, much of the ground cover and foliage will return, although at a lower rate.  Please be patient.

Cutting The Brush Yourself:
You may choose to remove brush in the road right of way yourself.  If you do, make sure you notify the Ingham County Road Department in writing first.  If you remove roadside brush yourself, the brush must be removed according to ICRD established guidelines.  The guidelines will be mailed to you upon receipt of written notice of your desire to remove brush in the road right of way.  For safety's sake, you must meet ICRD brush cutting guidelines.  If you do not, we are obligated to remove brush until the guidelines are met.

Which Roads Are Brush Cut:
The Ingham County Road Department cuts brush throughout the county.  Once a year, at least two months before we start cutting, we notify each township of the roads along which we will be cutting brush, notify the property owners who will be affected by this operation, or publish in local newspapers the list of roads scheduled for brush cutting.  Roads are selected by the amount of brush that needs cutting and how close the brush is to the traveled portion of the roadway.  Primary roads (higher volume roads) are cleared farther out from the traveled portion than are local roads.  Due to the hundreds of miles of county roads which we maintain, within the constraints of our budget, the brush on each road is not cut yearly.  In many instances it may be years before brush on the same portion of road is cut again.