Wildlife Habitat Council awards conservation certification to ATC
The four-acre native prairie surrounding American Transmission Co.’s Pewaukee, Wis., headquarters has been recertified as a native landscape by the Wildlife Habitat Council after meeting WHC’s strict requirements for voluntarily managing the site as a sustainable ecosystem. The prairie has been certified by WHC since 2018.
Establishing a prairie takes years
In 2009, we transformed a field surrounding our new headquarters building and parking lot into a native grassland prairie.
“Establishing a native prairie like ours takes years of cultivation,” said Johanna Sievewright, ATC environmental project manager.
Initially, botanists from one of our environmental partners identified native plant species suitable for the region, soil type and hydrology. They also looked for species that would provide a range of flowering times throughout the growing season for pollinators and consulted with Xerces Society, an international nonprofit organization focused on the conservation of insects and their habitats, to develop plant lists that favored pollinators.
The prairie was first seeded with a specially developed seed mixture and plant plugs were installed. Since the initial site development, the native plant diversity has significantly increased and now provides a thriving habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Using fire to maintain the prairie
While one of the benefits of native landscaping is that it requires less maintenance, that doesn’t stop non-native and invasive plant species from continually encroaching. ATC uses an integrated approach to manage the native prairie habitat. Multiple control and prevention methods have been used on invasive species within the prairie.
“We have to manage it proactively,” said Amy Tillman, facilities program manager. “Prescribed burns are one of the best ways to do that.”
Prescribed burning is a common prairie management tool. In addition to thwarting invasive plants, native plants that thrive in this environment tend to regenerate after the burn as healthier plants because many of Wisconsin’s native prairie grasses and flowers developed adaptations to survive fire. Their deep roots and buds beneath the soil enable them to withstand fire, while shallow-rooted, non-native plants succumb to the heat. Fire stimulates the growth of native plants, while also returning valuable nutrients to the soil. The prairie underwent prescribed burns in 2015 and 2019.
Incorporating native plants into your landscaping
A prairie may not be practical for your back yard, but you can help pollinating insects like bees and butterflies by adding just a few native prairie plants to your garden or landscaping. Wildflowers like purple coneflower, butterfly weed, and smooth blue aster will add color and provide food for bees, birds and butterflies. Prairie grasses like little bluestem and prairie dropseed can add interest to your landscaping while also providing food and shelter for pollinators. For additional suggestions, print our Grow Smart Planting Guide or Grow Smart Pollinator Guide and bring it to your local garden center.