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How we protect the Karner Blue butterfly (and species like it)

The Midwest we know and love wouldn’t be the same without the countless living things that make it their home. At Alliant Energy, we take a proactive approach to protecting wildlife through our vegetation management plans and close partnerships with organizations that protect our ecosystems. The Karner Blue butterfly is just one example of a species we work to protect.

The Karner Blue butterfly
A fully grown Karner Blue butterfly (KBB) is about the size of a nickel. It can’t travel far for food. This has put the species on The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s federally endangered list since 1992. Central and Northwest Wisconsin are some of the few remaining areas where the Karner Blue butterfly can be found - these areas have been designated as the KBB High Potential Range (HPR).

The main reason why the KBB is endangered is due to loss of habitat. Another big reason the Karner Blue butterfly is endangered is that it only feeds on the leaves of one particular plant – wild blue lupine. The butterfly’s ability to thrive is inextricably linked to the growth and proliferation of this native perennial.

Solar panels and utility rights-of-way also thrive in open and sunny areas, but we know the butterflies were here first, over 100 years ago to be exact. That’s why we’ve been a partner in the Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan (KBB HCP) since 1999. The KBB HCP is a United States Fish and Wildlife Service program managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. This plan helps protect the species and its habitat.

Pollinator-friendly habitats
As one of the very first steps in our planning process for a new solar site, we conduct a threatened and endangered species review. This helps us identify extra precautions we need to take. It also helps us design pollinator-friendly habitats to promote the health and well-being of the native ecosystem, protect endangered species and avoid adverse impacts. For example, we make a point to include wild lupine in the seed mix for our solar sites located within the KBB habitat.

In addition, we also strive to promote the growth and restoration of many other endangered species – at our solar sites and beyond.

More environmental stewardship
A decade ago, Peregrine Falcons faced near-extinction from the Midwest due to widespread use of a chemical pesticide and lack of suitable nesting habitat, making their eggs prone to predation. In partnership with the Raptor Resource Project Peregrine Utility Program, we’ve placed nesting boxes high up on several of our generating stations, where they are out of reach from other species. So far, our efforts have spared dozens of falcons.

Lake sturgeon, a species found in the Wisconsin River, is another animal we promote. The fish have a slow reproductive cycle that can easily be interrupted by overfishing, habitat degradation and pollution. Each year since 1997, Alliant Energy employees help position 900-gallon water tanks on the Kilbourn Dam platform. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources then places up to three dozen sturgeons in the tanks where their eggs will be fertilized, and the species will grow in number.

Ospreys appear to like nesting on utility poles. This can be hazardous to the birds and can also be a source of electrical outages. In an effort to protect the birds and keep the energy flowing, Alliant Energy line crews have installed over a dozen artificial osprey nest platforms for various organizations throughout our Service Territory since 2010.

While we’ve pledged to advance renewable energy through our Clean Energy Blueprint, we're also responsible for taking care of the environment to make sure we leave it a better place. Check out our environmental initiatives to learn about all the species we protect.
Deb is a Senior Environmental Specialist in Alliant Energy’s Environmental Services and Corporate Sustainability Department specializing in threatened and endangered species, avian protection and native community restoration. Her personal connection to the natural world makes her proud to implement Alliant Energy’s commitment to doing the right thing by protecting native species where we can have a unique and positive impact.

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