We enhance biodiversity and sensitive natural habitats on our land, using sound practices for aesthetics, biodiversity, cultural resources, forestry, recreation, water quality and wildlife. We also support stewardship efforts that reach beyond our properties across state and national borders.
Some of our electric and natural gas facilities cross wetlands, grasslands, savannas and forests. When maintaining or building facilities, we work to avoid potentially sensitive areas and to take care for the surrounding environment. Where such areas cannot be avoided, we strive to minimize ecological, social and cultural impacts, coordinating with governmental natural resource agencies and inviting the public to help us plan our activities. For example, when siting and installing natural gas pipelines, we use a consensus approach that results in:
- Examination of potential routes for impacts to forests and other habitats, avoiding sensitive lands wherever possible.
- Modification of construction methods to reduce potential impacts caused by crossing wetlands and streams.
- Restoration of construction areas.
- Restoration of soil productivity in agricultural land.
Both the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin are involved in this consensus approach prior to our applications for any necessary permits. We used this approach during installation of the 34-mile Ixonia natural gas pipeline lateral, the 17-mile Port Washington lateral, the Hartford-West Bend and Fox Valley laterals, and the 85-mile West Central Lateral natural gas pipelines.
While energy generation and distribution can affect the environment in many ways, regulatory agencies have found no indication of harm or significant changes in natural habitats and biodiversity related to our activities and operations. We use effective controls to limit emissions and discharges, meeting and often exceeding government regulations.
Wilderness Shores recreation area
Located near our hydroelectric dams in the Menominee River watershed in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Wilderness Shores recreation area is undeveloped except for the dams, power generation and transmission equipment, a few roads (mostly sand or gravel), and low-impact recreation areas with primitive campsites, privies and boat launches. This mostly forested area includes high-quality forested wetlands with a high biodiversity of plant and animal species. The Wilderness Shores Settlement Agreement was formed with state and federal resources agencies and nongovernment stakeholder groups for the renewal of operating licenses for our hydroelectric system and provides benefits for the affected lands, including shoreline protection, land management and improvement funding.
Spread Eagle Barrens State Natural Area
Prescribed fires restored this rare bracken grassland barrens on parcels we owned within the Spread Eagle Barrens State Natural Area in Florence County, Wisconsin. We sold more than 400 acres of that land, which was not needed for utility operations, to the WDNR in 2007. We manage the remainder consistent with Natural Area objectives through a perpetual conservation dedication. We continue to develop and maintain a geographic information system for the entire Natural Area. We adopted this area through the WDNR’s Adopt-A-Natural Area program and the We Energies Foundation.
Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness Area
Located in Michigan’s Houghton and Baraga counties, we maintained a forested tract, including gorge and waterfalls, in its natural condition since acquiring the property in 1927. In cooperation with U.S. Forest Service personnel in the Ottawa National Forest, we successfully completed the sale of the Sturgeon River Gorge property in 2007 to the Trust for Public Land, ensuring its protection in perpetuity.
Ulao Creek Watershed
As the watershed’s largest landowner, we support the Ulao Creek Partnership in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, to protect this land within a rapidly urbanizing area.
This prairie in Kenosha County is one of the largest prairie complexes in the state and the most intact coastal wetland in southeastern Wisconsin. We also adopted this area through the WDNR’s Adopt-A-Natural Area program and the We Energies Foundation.
Bain Station Prairie
We manage this land in Kenosha County with prescribed fires and other management techniques to maintain this wet-mesic prairie that provides habitat for rare plants, including prairie white-fringed orchid.
Port Washington migratory bird stopover
We created and manage a unique habitat on the former south coal dock at the Port Washington Generating Station for migratory birds to have a resting place during their long fall and spring migrations along the Lake Michigan Flyway. The nearly five-acre site is rich with deep and shallow marsh, wet meadow and prairie habitats. We manage the site to promote a high-quality floral plant community, eliminate invasive species and attract a wide variety of migratory songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl. Since it was first created in 2011, more than 100 bird species have been documented at the site, including four Wisconsin state endangered species. The site also features public amenities including a passive recreation trail, wildlife viewing areas and a fishing platform.
Habitat management and restoration
We provide essential support to nonprofit and government partners through the We Energies Foundation, hands-on volunteer labor and professional expertise to carry out native habitat management and restoration activities. High-quality natural areas are maintained and preserved at locations such as the Riveredge Nature Center, Mequon Nature Preserve, Cedarburg Bog, Sydney Woodlands Preserve and Lapham Peak State Park, among others.
A number of wetland mitigation projects have been constructed near Oak Creek Power Plant in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, involving approximately 90 acres of restored and enhanced wetlands, upland prairie and upland woodlands that we will maintain and manage in perpetuity. These sites, located near a rapidly urbanizing area along the Lake Michigan migratory bird flyway, create large habitat blocks and provide a significant water quality buffer for the Root River, a tributary to Lake Michigan. We also manage 12 restored and created marshes on our properties in Ozaukee and Manitowoc counties. We routinely protect wetlands along our electric and natural gas distribution systems.
Wisconsin and Michigan shoreland areas
We manage shoreland areas adjacent to our hydroelectric reservoirs for biodiversity, forest sustainability, ecological and aesthetic values, and recreational opportunities.
Since 1988, nearly 20 percent of the total peregrine falcons born in Wisconsin have hatched at our power plants. We provide artificial nest boxes at six locations affording the peregrines opportunities to successfully reproduce annually. Of all known peregrine nesting sites in Wisconsin, more than 95 percent of them are at artificial nest boxes.
Our Bald Eagle Protection Plan protects nesting eagles from disturbance, protects canopy trees for future nesting sites, and offers public financial incentive to report raptor nesting sites on company lands. This program has supported the recovery of the bald eagle in Wisconsin and Michigan.
When ospreys use our distribution structures for their nests, our field crews construct alternative nest structures for the birds nearby. This prevents sticks that fall from osprey nests from causing electrical service interruption and reduces risk of a bird being electrocuted. Our crews also have assisted private and public land owners in erecting nest structures in key habitat locations. Ospreys currently use several dozen platforms that we have erected in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. These efforts have supported the recovery of the ospreys, which now exceed more than 500 breeding pairs in Wisconsin alone.
Our staff are involved with comprehensive wildlife conservation efforts with the coordination and cooperation of the WDNR and multiple other partners. In 2001, we were the first company to endorse the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative. Now, more than 140 groups are working on a long-term comprehensive plan to conserve all native birds in all habitats in Wisconsin. Priority goes to species and native ecosystems in the greatest need of protection, recovery and enhancement.
Prairie white-fringed orchid
We continue to help the prairie white-fringed orchid habitat to recover at Bain Station Prairie in Kenosha County, where the orchid once grew. We use mowing and prescribed fires to clear woody vegetation and promote regrowth of native plants, including the orchid.
We support several activities aimed at controlling invasive plants and animals such as buckthorn, Eurasian water milfoil, garlic mustard, purple loosestrife, sea lamprey and the zebra mussel. We contribute to help other agencies and groups produce educational materials about invasive species and the threat they pose to biodiversity. We actively participate in invasive species management on company lands. We promote awareness and implement construction best-management practices on all of our construction projects to do our part in attempting to halt the spread of invasive species within our service area.
We have identified 19 IUCN 2004 Red List threatened species that exist in our service area. This includes 12 birds, two mussels, 2 turtles, two dragonflies and one mammal. We know of no adverse effects to any of these species caused by our activities.
Since 2003, we have worked with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and local sport fishing organizations on a penning project for Chinook salmon at our Presque Isle Power Plant. The net penning process works as a “half-way house” for salmon that typically would be planted directly into a body of water. The process allows fish to become acclimated to the river and to predators such as gulls, cormorants and others while minimizing risk. Return rates for similar projects have been up to 20 percent compared with direct planting return rates of approximately 2 percent.