Native Prairie Restoration Projects Across Three States Enhance Midwest Ecosystems

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Iowa, Michigan, and Kansas

Electric transmission right-of-ways (ROW) provide an ideal opportunity to restore wildlife habitat corridors and support pollinators. The ITC Holdings Corp. (ITC) work with ECT annually to restore tallgrass prairies along their transmission lines and at substations in Iowa, Michigan, and Kansas. This is critical because Midwest prairies have been virtually eliminated from their pre-historic range. Today, native tallgrass prairie communities in the United States have been reduced to approximately 4% of their former range. Due to safety and grid reliability precautions the ROWs require low-growing herbaceous vegetation. Prairies make an excellent alternative vegetative cover to traditional turfgrass.

To streamline permitting, ROW management, and ITC’s corporate commitment to conservation of rare species and habitats, ECT created the Ecological Prescriptions Program. This environmental compliance program supports ITC’s Integrated Vegetation Management program (IVM) to protect rare species and critical habitats along 16,000 miles of ROW across six midwestern states.

ECT also managed the application and implementation of ITC’s partnership with the Monarch Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA). Specifically, ECT identified corridors already being managed for monarch habitat, trained staff to complete plant and pollinator surveys, and supported the expansion of pollinator-friendly construction and maintenance practices. As a result, ITC enrolled 98,000 acres across six midwestern states into the CCAA.

ECT also prepared successful applications for ITC to receive the Wildlife Habitat Council’s (WHC) Conservation Certification at 14 sites across the Midwest.  ITC received the 2022 Wildlife Habitat Council Gold Program of the Year for ITC’s Headquarters, featuring 92 acres of restored land and a naturalized transmission corridor, as well as the Iowa Governor’s Excellence Award for Habitat Restoration in 2013 and 2016.

Ongoing flora and fauna monitoring at sites certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council is provided by ECT’s team of naturalists, along with guidance on adaptive management strategies.

A sample of ITC’s tallgrass prairie restoration and pollinator project sites include:

  • Beverly Park, McLoud Run Park, Sac and Fox Trail City Park, and Wanatee Park (Iowa)
  • Hiawatha, Stoney Point, Radio Road, and Prairie Creek Industrial substations (Iowa)
  • Chippewa Nature Center, Tomlinson Arboretum, ITC Corporate Headquarters (Michigan)
  • Thistle substation (Kansas)

Advantages to converting turf to native systems in ROWs:

  • Diversified ecosystem structure and function
  • Quality wildlife habitat for pollinators, ground-nesting birds, and other grassland-dependent species
  • Improved water quality by slowing surface runoff
  • Prairie plants’ deep roots increase infiltration and groundwater recharge
  • Decreased spread of invasive species
  • Decreased establishment of woody species that threaten electric reliability
  • Reduced long-term maintenance costs
Client / Owner
ITC Holdings Corp.
Project Timeline
April 2014—Ongoing
Highlights
  • ITC partnership with the Monarch Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances
  • Conversion of traditional turf into native habitats
  • Pollinator-friendly tallgrass prairies
  • 98,000 acres of grassland habitat
  • 16,000 miles  of ROWs
Awards
  • Wildlife Habitat Council Conservation Certification
  • 2013 and 2016 Iowa Governor’s Excellence Award for Habitat Restoration
  • 2022 Wildlife Habitat Council Gold Program of the Year
  • 2022 WHC Forests Project Award
  • ITC has earned the following Competitive Conservation Awards from the Wildlife Habitat Council:
    • Grasslands Project Award – Chippewa Nature Center transmission corridor, Midland, Mich., 2017
    • Pollinator Advocate Award – ITC headquarters, Novi, Mich., presented in collaboration with the Gold Program of the Year Award – ITC Corporate Headquarters, Novi MI, 2022
    • Forest Project Award – ITC Corporate Headquarters, Novi MI, 2022

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