American Transmission Co.

Helping to keep the lights on, businesses running and communities strong. ®

Blog | American Transmission Co. - Part 3

Butterfly weed is a must for pollinator gardens

This week’s National Wildflower Week celebrates blooms that bring landscapes to life. Whether in prairies, pastures, along roadsides or in back yards, wildflowers create habitat, help conserve water and reduce erosion.

There are lots of beautiful wildflower species that provide food for bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinators, but one of the showiest wildflowers is Butterfly Weed. This year, ATC plans to give away more than 10,000 butterfly weed seed packets as part of our Grow Smart program.

“Butterfly Weed is a must for any pollinator garden,” said Melinda Myers, nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author, columnist and speaker. Since 2014, ATC has partnered with Myers to help landowners learn about compatible low-growing vegetation near transmission lines. “This stunning orange wildflower blooms from June to late August and is a favorite food source of the Monarch butterfly caterpillar.”

Interesting facts about Butterfly Weed:

  • Butterfly weed is a host plant for the monarch, queens and gray hairstreak butterflies.
  • It lacks the milky sap common to other milkweed species, but does produce seed pods containing hundreds of seeds with large silky tufts of hair that help the wind disperse the seed.
  • Butterfly weed is also known as “pleurisy root” because Native Americans used to chew the roots as a remedy for pleurisy and other pulmonary issues. The root was also commonly brewed into a tea to treat diarrhea and other stomach problems.
  • Native to the prairies of the Midwestern United States, it reaches 2 feet in height and prefers dry soils in full to partial sunlight.

Need additional wildflower suggestions? View or print our Grow Smart Planting Guide or Grow Smart Pollinator Guide and bring it to your local garden center.

Spring cleaning in the transmission line rights-of-way

With the weather turning warmer and many of us remaining safer at home, spring cleaning activities have likely begun.

ATC has our own version of spring cleaning, but due to the nature of the work and materials we use, we call it “fair-weather line maintenance” – mostly because some of our inspection and maintenance activities are weather dependent.

Each spring, ATC contractors will climb, scrape and re-paint various transmission structures. Others hand-excavate around steel and wood bases of the poles to check for and treat corrosion or decay. Others check and repair any cracking or deteriorating concrete footers.

All of these annual efforts help ensure the safety and reliability of the transmission system. Safety is always a priority at ATC, and our field workers and contractors continue to follow the COVID-19 safe distancing practices ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health guidelines.

Thanks to the efforts of these ATC contractors, along with our employees in the operations centers and the field, we’re helping to keep the lights on for you.

The Monarchs are coming!

Saturday, May 2, was National Start Seeing Monarch’s day. While we likely won’t see any Monarchs in Wisconsin just yet, they are making their way back north to their summer breeding grounds.

While the ones who left in the fall were headed all the way back to Mexico – fluttering away at 5.5 mph to make the 1,500-mile trek – we will welcome their great-great-great-grandchildren later this spring. The first-generation leaving Mexico only migrate as far north as Texas and Oklahoma. Generally, it’s the fourth generation that makes it to Wisconsin sometime between May and June.

Monarchs Population in Decline

Unfortunately, the eastern North American monarch butterfly population has declined by 90% in the past 20 years. Only 1 in 10 monarchs remain. Habitat loss has been identified is one of the main reasons for the decline.

While adult monarch butterflies sip nectar from a variety of native flowering plants like asters, coneflowers and ironweed, monarch larvae only eat milkweed. Monarchs are foul tasting and poisonous due to the presence of cardenolides in their bodies, which the caterpillars ingest from milkweed.

Helping Increase Pollinator Habitat

At ATC, we’re doing our part to help Monarchs and other pollinators. We’re members of the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative and part of the advisory committee for the Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterfly on Energy and Transportation Lands.

We developed a first-of-its-kind Pollinator Power Model to map and identify suitable pollinator habitat (e.g., meadows, pastureland, etc.) and gaps in pollinator pathways along our over 9,890 miles of transmission lines. This enables us to strategically enhance pollinator habitat in our service territory. We also use a specially-developed pollinator seed mix as part of our new and rebuild construction efforts.

Our Pollinator Habitat Program promotes vegetation that is both compatible with our vegetation management practices and provides habitat for pollinators, which use the utility corridor as a flight path.  Since 2017, we’ve awarded approximately $45,000 to 10 entities to help them create pollinator habitats along our transmission corridor.

What You Can Do

We can all help butterflies by planting more flowers. In collaboration with nationally known gardening expert Melinda Myers, we developed two guides to identify vegetation that is similar to what we plant in our rights-of-way. These suggested native plants have deep root systems that will beautify your property and help attract bees, butterflies and birds. Visit atc-GrowSmart.com for resources and recommendations.

A Monarch butterfly resting on a Lupine in full bloom.

Celebrating Audubon Day with a free online educational program

Happy 235th birthday to the American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter John James Audubon, whose book The Birds of America is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed.

While Mr. Audubon had to rely on pen and paper for bird education, we have a fun online education activity for your family while you stay #SaferAtHome. Learn about osprey and great blue heron nesting habits with an Into the Outdoors program about avian conservation ATC helped with. The program includes resources for teachers, parents and students. Click here to check it out.

Nesting platforms are critical to our Avian Protection Program

Wisconsin has always been an important area for many migratory bird species. Unfortunately, some birds may find our transmission structures attractive places to perch and nest, but doing so can pose risks to the safety of the birds and compromise the reliability of the electric transmission system. We identify migratory paths and areas of heavy avian use so we can consider steps to better protect birds and minimize potential impacts on our transmission equipment.

Some of the ways we do this include:

  • Installing 200+ nesting platforms on or adjacent to our transmission structures or on poles nearby to enable eagles, herons and osprey to nest safely
  • Installing flight diverters to increase visibility of our wires and help prevent bird collisions
  • Replacing, reframing or retrofitting problematic transmission structures

Watch this video to learn more about our Avian Protection Program and how it supports our environmental commitment and the reliability of our electric transmission system.

Dancing Goat Distillery donates hand sanitizer to ATC

American Transmission Co. received a five-gallon donation of hand sanitizer from Dancing Goat Distillery in Cambridge, Wis., to keep our employees safe while we help keep the lights on during the COVID-19 pandemic. While most ATC employees are working safely from home, we maintain essential staff in our facilities to safely and reliably operate and maintain the transmission system.

On March 20, the distillery began producing sanitizer as a result of a waiver issued by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau under guidance of the Food and Drug Administration. A week prior, they had stopped production of their signature products, Limousin Rye Whiskey, Trials and Tribulations Vodka and Death’s Door Gin, to allow their employees to remain safer at home. The small family-owned company was equipped as an ethanol plant to easily transition to produce sanitizer with the addition of a couple of new ingredients.

“We are putting all of our resources into hand sanitizer production, distilling for the alcohol to make it literally around the clock,” said Dancing Goat’s Nicholas Maas, “and processing and packaging.” Maas is working every day, including weekends, along with Beau Bunce, director of marketing, monitoring compliance, and one additional employee per day working to process sanitizer and monitor the stills. They work within Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing, sanitizing and hygiene. “It is very challenging working with low bodies. All you want to do is high-five someone,” Maas said.

To date, Dancing Goat has produced 6,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, and expects to make more than 20,000 before the market stabilizes. They have donated more than one thousand gallons of the sanitizer to first responders and essential workers so far and sell it at cost to larger organizations such as hospitals to keep the donation program going.

ATC is grateful to Dancing Goat for their generous donation of sanitizer so we can focus on staying safe and making sure the electric transmission system keeps running.

First responder or health care organizations can request sanitizer from Dancing Goat Distillery. Visit their website for contact information. If you want to support the company, you can buy their products in stores across Wisconsin.