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Notes from the Field (Trips)

Editor’s note: The field trip. A time to get out, learn and explore. The tradition of the outdoor “classroom” is a great way for children and adults to get closer to nature.

This special “field trip” installment features photos and observations from Michael Warwick, ATC senior environmental project manager and a volunteer nature guide specializing in the creepy, crawly, hopping and soaring creatures of the Upper Midwest.

When Michael isn’t busy leaving no log unturned (literally) in his search for snakes and such, he works with our contractors to ensure that we demonstrate our environmental commitment.

I led two Searching for Salamanders field trips this April, one hosted by the Natural Resources Foundation and one for ATC’s employee Green Team. While short on salamanders, there was plenty still to see, including turtles, frogs and snakes.

Finding salamanders is greatly weather-dependent. The land-dwelling species found locally typically migrate from their overwintering habitat in the woods to the closest pond to lay their eggs during the first warm rain of the season.

Central newts in their aquatic adult phase were plentiful and just getting ready to lay their eggs.

Due to early spring weather this year, most adult salamanders were likely already in their summer burrows, not to be seen again until next spring. A few blue-spotted sallies were still hanging around in low numbers. Central newts in their aquatic adult phase were plentiful and just getting ready to lay their eggs.

Trip-goers were lucky to observe numerous Blanding’s turtles, a species of special concern in Wisconsin. The Blanding’s turtle’s bright yellow throat makes it unmistakable amongst Wisconsin’s native turtle species.

Kids in the group loved getting hands-on with the critters we came across.

Trip-goers were lucky to observe numerous Blanding’s turtles, a species of special concern in Wisconsin. The Blanding’s turtle’s bright yellow throat makes it unmistakable amongst Wisconsin’s native turtle species.

Michael Warwick is a senior environmental project manager at ATC. Prior to joining ATC he worked as an environmental consultant conducting tree and plant surveys, wetland delineation, GIS, project planning, community planning and permitting. He previously worked at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with a focus on waterway monitoring and studies, and wetland and waterway permit reviews.

Michael earned a Bachelor of Science degree in conservation and environmental sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is certified by Wisconsin DNR as an Endangered Resources Reviewer and is a member of the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) Outreach Committee. He volunteers his time guiding annual natural resources-based educational field trips for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.

 

New fleet of electric vehicles keeps ATC running green

American Transmission Co. employees are traveling green.

ATC purchased five Chevrolet Volts in the summer of 2016 as part of a grassroots effort by employees to find a more environmentally friendly option for company travel.

Called rEVs, the vehicles save fuel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce costs. ATC provides charging stations at its offices for use by both the rEV fleet and employees’ personal electric vehicles.

Watch how it all started:

Join us at Party for the Planet May 20 – 21 in partnership with horticulturist and gardening expert Melinda Myers to learn how we can all rEV it Up and help pollinators!

Grow Smart® project attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators to Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary

Seeding project takes place on May 9 in right-of-way alongside sanctuary                       

PEWAUKEE, WIS. – Phase two of American Transmission Co.’s Grow Smart® initiative to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators in the right-of-way that borders Green Bay’s Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary property takes place on May 9. The right-of-way is located under and along high voltage transmission lines on the northern border of I-43; west of Danz Avenue. and east of Irwin Street.

The first phase of this pollinator project began in 2015, when ATC vegetation management contractors used vegetation mowers to control the invasive species, such as buckthorn, from approximately six acres of the right-of-way. The following year, herbicides were selectively applied to the remaining invasive species within that acreage. On May 9, ATC’s environmental contractor, Cardno, will use equipment to broadcast a pollinator seed mix over two and one-half acres of the right-of-way in an effort to establish pollinator habitat. Earlier this year, ATC established a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for this project. As part of the agreement, the USFWS will supply the seed mix for the project.

“ATC’s Grow Smart® program offers suggestions for low-growing, compatible vegetation to plant in the right-of-way,” explained Gregory Levesque, director of environmental and local relations. “As an electric utility, we are uniquely positioned to establish our rights-of-way as suitable habitat to help pollinator species that we know are in decline. This project is one of many that ATC is initiating to revitalize our rights-of-way, by adjusting our seed mixes to include low-growing vegetation that attracts pollinators – such as those we promote in our Grow Smart® program. We are committed to helping our environment and pleased to be partnering with the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for this project.”

“We applaud ATC for this effort,” said Wildlife Sanctuary Executive Director Mike Reed. “They removed buckthorn and other invasive species from the land and are now replacing it with much-needed vegetation for pollinators. It fits in with the educational mission of the Sanctuary and lets people know that they, too, can plant vegetation that is beneficial for wildlife.”

ATC representatives and the Sanctuary Director will monitor the project throughout the growing season to evaluate and measure results. “By next year at this time, the data should provide us with a comprehensive picture of what plantings work well for that particular area, and what could be improved,” stated Levesque. “We’ll continue to maintain the vegetation at this site through our vegetation management program and volunteer activities.”

Anyone who would like to learn more about planting for pollinators can visit ATC’s Grow Smart® website: www.atc-GrowSmart.com. A free pollinator planting guide is available for download at the site.

ATC commissions new technology, seed mixes to help pollinators

Bees, butterflies and birds will soon have more flowers, plants and vegetation to visit within American Transmission Co.’s service area.

That’s because ATC is working with its construction contractors to plant seed mixes in its rights-of-way that generate vegetation beneficial to many species of pollinators. Low-growing flowering plants, such as those that attract pollinators, can thrive within transmission line rights-of-way.

ATC has developed enhanced seed mixes to use in its rights-of-way that include plants that flower throughout the growing season. Longer flowering periods allow pollinators to benefit from nectar sources over a longer time span. Pollinators play an important role in contributing to our food security and healthy ecosystems by helping plants flower and reproduce.

ATC is using an innovative approach to identify which rights-of-way to distribute the enhanced seed mixes. ATC worked with an environmental contractor to develop a new geographic information system model to identify right-of-way segments where enhanced seed mixes could help better connect pollinators to their environments. It’s called the Pollinator Opportunities within Rights-of Way, or POWR, model.

“This technology allows us to determine where it makes the most sense to enhance areas for pollinators from a biological standpoint,” said Johanna Sievewright, senior environmental project manager.

So far, ATC has identified 210 priority segments where enhancing areas for pollinators could significantly benefit the local environment.

ATC also is collaborating with nature centers to distribute the enhanced seed mixes. ATC partnered with Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enhance two and a half acres of right-of-way adjacent to the sanctuary property. ATC also partnered with Mequon Nature Preserve to enhance five acres of right-of-way on its property.

The goal is to help a number of different species, with a focus on endangered species like the rusty patched bumble bee. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently added the rusty patched bumble bee, native to the Upper Midwest, to the federal endangered species list.

“It’s important for us to increase habitat to ensure some of these species, like the rusty patched bumble bee, can grow in numbers and hopefully be removed from the endangered species list in the future. We want to do the right thing because we care,” said Sievewright.

ATC’s new POWR model is already generating industry buzz for its innovative approach to environmental stewardship. Sievewright shared how ATC is using its new technology to improve ecosystems at the Electric Power Research Institute Pollinator Workshop in Washington, D.C. in April and the Energy Research Center’s Rights-Of-Way as Habitats Working Group meeting in May.

If you’re interested in attracting pollinators to your own garden, ATC has created the GrowSmart® Pollinator Guide in partnership with horticulturist and gardening expert Melinda Myers.

ATC recognized again as Top Workplace

We have positive energy at American Transmission Co., and it shows year after year when our employees have an opportunity to share their opinion about what it’s like to work here.

For the fifth year, ATC has been awarded a Top Workplaces honor by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“Receiving this honor again is a tribute to our employees, who are among the best in our industry,” said ATC President and CEO Mike Rowe. “Their responses put us on the list, and their spirit of collaboration and innovation is what makes ATC a place where people learn, grow and stay.”

The Top Workplaces lists are based solely on the results of an employee feedback survey administered by WorkplaceDynamics, LLC, a leading research firm that specializes in organizational health and workplace improvement. The survey measured several aspects of workplace culture.

“The Top Workplaces award is not a popularity contest. And oftentimes, people assume it’s all about fancy perks and benefits.” says Doug Claffey, CEO of WorkplaceDynamics. “But to be a Top Workplace, organizations must meet our strict standards for organizational health. And who better to ask about work life than the people who live the culture every day—the employees. Time and time again, our research has proven that what’s most important to them is a strong belief in where the organization is headed, how it’s going to get there, and the feeling that everyone is in it together.”

ATC is a great place to work because what we do matters. Plus, we get to work with smart, committed and caring people. That positive energy, along with great pay and benefits, is why employees want to learn, grow and stay here. It is an honor to be recognized by our employees for something we strive to provide every day, a great workplace.

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