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Village of Mount Pleasant improves pollinator habitat with help from ATC

The Village of Mount Pleasant recently added 388 native flowering plants to the Pike River Pathway thanks to a $5,000 ATC Pollinator Habitat Program grant. By interspersing native plants with existing vegetation under the ATC right-of-way, the Village expects to increase plant diversity and improve pollinator food sources and habitat.

Some of the native plants, including the 65 wetland-loving white turtlehead forbs, provide substances that build up bumble bees’ immune systems. Native bumble bees – like the federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee that was first observed in the pathway area in 2018 – will seek out the plants if they encounter harmful things in their environment.

To support monarch butterfly reproduction, the Village planted roughly 130 milkweed plants – the only food source for monarch caterpillars. Other plants, like wild columbine, shooting stars and prairie spiderwort will provide early spring food sources for bees and butterflies. Native cup plants – a goldfinch favorite – are expected to crowd out crown vetch, an invasive species.

The three-day planting session was not without its challenges. A team of four – wearing face masks and practicing physical distancing – had to contend with dry, clay-filled soil. When hand trowels proved too difficult, the team added a large drill bit to a power tool to dig the holes.

The Pike River Pathway is a multiuse trail that extends from Old Spring Street to County Highway KR in Racine County. It is part of the Pike River project, an ecologically based watershed restoration and management plan for the Pike River watershed.

ATC’s Pollinator Habitat Program promotes planting low-growing vegetation within a transmission line right-of-way to beautify communities in a way that doesn’t compromise the safety and reliability of the electric transmission system. The Program provides financial support to eligible cities, villages, towns, counties and tribes in ATC’s service area, as well as entities that allow public access to ATC rights-of-way (e.g. nature preserves, non-profits or public land managers).

In addition to the Pollinator Habitat Program, ATC’s Community Planting Program provides financial support to eligible cities, villages, towns, counties and tribes in its service area for planting projects on public property, outside transmission line rights-of-way. Program funds can be used to plant trees and other tall-growing vegetation outside the transmission line rights-of-way.

Applications for the Community Planting Program and Pollinator Habitat Program are accepted July 1 through Sept. 30 each year, and recipients will be selected by the end of the calendar year. Awards range from $100 to $5,000. Since 2013, ATC has awarded approximately 240 communities and organizations with funds totaling more than $425,000. Additional information and program applications can be found at atc-GrowSmart.com.