Consumers Energy has implemented wildlife management plans for undeveloped lands on our generating facilities for the last 30 years. Since 1975, we’ve implemented wildlife and forestry management plans at our Ludington Pumped Storage Plant, co-owned with DTE Electric, and plans for threatened or endangered species and for eleven Consumers Energy hydroelectric plants along the Au Sable, Manistee, and Muskegon Rivers in northern Michigan. The wildlife and forestry management plans were also supplemented with plans for the protection of threatened and endangered species such as the bald eagle, Indiana bat, Northern Long-eared bat and Karner blue butterfly.
As part of our commitment to ecological protection and preservation, we certify these management plans with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), a national environmental organization based in the Washington D.C. area that promotes wildlife habitat management and environmental education on lands owned by private businesses. Consumers Energy was the first large energy utility to join the WHC and all of our certified properties are inspected by WHC to ensure protections exist and are maintained.
Management of our hydroelectric plant lands also conforms with the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and the Northern States Bald Eagle Recovery Plan. Since our lands along northern Michigan’s rivers are largely undeveloped, they provide excellent bald eagle nesting habitats, while the hydroelectric impoundments provide healthy populations of for bald eagles to prey upon. Furthermore, we cooperate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at our Karn, Weadock and Whiting plants to provide nesting platforms for bald eagles due to a scarcity of suitable nesting trees in those areas. Moreover, our employees work with environmental groups, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to integrate the management of these habitats into broad plans within the Huron-Manistee National Forest.
Our land management programs also include wetlands protection and monitoring, along with an extensive nest box programs for wood duck, bluebirds, purple martins, tree swallows, and kestrels. In particular, our hydroelectric project lands along the Au Sable, Manistee, and Muskegon Rivers are listed as wildlife viewing sites in Michigan’s Watchable Wildlife Program, providing outstanding areas for viewing wildlife in the state.
In total, our wildlife management plans cover more than 16,000 acres of forest, wetlands and river lands, preserving and managing productive habitats for wildlife, with special attention to habitats for threatened, endangered or species of concern.
Consumers Energy Hydros Important in Recovery and De-listing of Bald Eagle
When bald eagles declined nationwide due to pesticide and PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) pollution, they survived in our remote river lands and helped form a core population that made recovery possible. The lack of viable fish passage facilities at these dams prevents the exposure of bald eagles to contaminants in Great Lakes fish, which enter these rivers to spawn. While PCBs and other contaminants have declined substantially in Great Lakes fish since PCBs and some persistent pesticides were banned, current concentrations in the Great Lakes-influenced fish are still too high for safe consumption by bald eagles and other sensitive species such as mink and otter. We continue to manage these hydroelectric lands to protect bald eagles and the fish populations that sustain them. Over the 21 years that our bald eagle management plans have been in effect, the number of bald eagle breeding territories associated with our hydroelectric impoundments has increased from 9 to 15. Over this time period, the productivity at these nest sites has exceeded the plan goal of 1.0 fledged eaglet per occupied nest. A total of 270 eaglets have been fledged in these territories over the last 21 years. Eaglets from interior populations such as those on the hydros are an important reproductive reservoir for the replacement of nesting eagles along the Great Lakes and streams where chronic exposure to contaminants can negatively impact their reproduction over time.
Karner Blue Butterfly-Help for an Endangered Species
The Croton and Hardy hydroelectric projects on the Muskegon River are located in an area of Michigan that was once a dry prairie, complete with a lot of easily recognizable prairie plants such as the prickly pear cactus! Consumers Energy protects the rare dry prairie vegetation on our electric rights-of-way and specifically protects and maintains a native flowering plant, the blue lupine, Lupinus perennis , the host plant of the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly. Fostering this endangered species of butterfly involves maintenance of the native lupine and several other prairie plant species used by the butterfly as nectar sources that are critical to its lifecycle.
Trumpeter Swan Recovery
Since 1997, Consumers Energy has been part of a national conservation effort aimed at bringing trumpeter swans back from the brink of extinction. Over the years, we have collaborated with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service and Michigan State University’s Kellogg Sanctuary in releasing 26 young adult trumpeter swans into the extensive wetlands behind several of our hydroelectric plants. These reintroductions have led to self-sustaining populations of trumpeter swans in northeast Michigan. Below our dams, the Au Sable River also provides ice-free, high-quality winter habitats for hundreds of trumpeter swans annually, one of the largest wintering aggregations of trumpeter swans in the continental United States. The trumpeter swan population along the lower AuSable has been an important element in the designation of this area as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Indiana Bats and Northern Long-eared bats
Few people know that more than 20,000 bats, including brown, eastern pipistrelle, about 700 threatened Northern Long-Eared bats, and as many as 60 endangered Indiana bats, hibernate each year inside the spillway of Tippy Dam on the Manistee River. During a past spillway renovation, we ensured that the work would not affect the temperature and humidity of this habitat for the hibernating bats and we continue to collaborate with bat experts to protect these species. More than 21,000 bats were observed hibernating in the spillway in February of 2015. White nose syndrome, (WNS), a fungal disease that has caused mass die-offs in hibernating bat populations throughout eastern North America was found at Tippy for the first time during this census. Only a few bats were affected. We will continue to cooperate with bat conservation experts and state and federal natural resource agencies in conservation measures to protect the affected bat populations.
Updated June 2015