Consumers Energy has implemented wildlife management plans for undeveloped lands on our generating facilities for the last 30 years. Furthermore, for over 20 years 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 for eleven hydroelectric plants along the Au Sable, Manistee, and Muskegon Rivers in northern Michigan.
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 landscape level 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.
Our plans produce real results. 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 provides ice-free, high-quality winter habitats for hundreds of trumpeter swans annually, one of the largest groups in the continental United States.
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 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.
A lesser known fact is that more than 20,000 bats, including brown, eastern pipistrelle, northern 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.
Finally, at our Croton and Hardy hydroelectric projects on the Muskegon River, the dry prairie vegetation on our electric rights-of-way both maintain the native prairie and its unique species, thereby supporting the endangered Karner Blue butterfly. Fostering this endangered species of butterfly involves maintenance of several prairie plant species critical to its lifecycle.
Updated April 2014