monarch butterfly and the plant species milkweed

Protecting wildlife and taking care of our environment

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This guest post is from Kristen LeForce, program coordinator, Wildlife Habitat Program

As one of the largest landowners in the state, DTE has the opportunity to manage its land for the benefit of other species and create tangible benefits to wildlife. Our Wildlife Habitat Program is an example of our commitment to environmental stewardship and conserving natural resources.

Throughout the state, DTE has certified 36 sites with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), a non-profit that assists corporations with managing their land for wildlife.  DTE began certifying its land for habitat in 1996, when the Belle River Power Plant was first certified after creating migratory bird stopover habitat through partnerships with Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited. Since then, we’ve certified our electric power plants, most of our gas service centers and compressor stations, and our downtown Detroit headquarters. We’ve also partnered with countless organizations in the state, including The Nature Conservancy, the USFWS, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America.

Preserving native Michigan plants, which provide food for insects, and in turn, many other species, has been a focus of these projects. “Native plants” are those plants occur naturally in the areas they evolved and they are especially good at providing food and shelter for native insects and promoting biodiversity.

A good example of this is the monarch butterfly and the plant species milkweed (shown in caterpillar form in the photo). The monarch caterpillar only eats the leaves of the milkweed plant. This means the survival of the monarch butterfly is tied to the availability of milkweed in the habitat. The caterpillars and butterflies in turn become food for birds, which continue to feed other animals in the food web. Through this initiative, we’ve not only been able to create pollinator habitat for butterflies and bees, but nesting habitat for bald eagles and osprey, and space for deer, coyotes, and even beavers to flourish.

But with all good things, the drive to make things better is always there. Through our goal of continuous improvement, Major Enterprise Projects, DTE’s leading project management organization, began an initiative to further expand and grow the company’s wildlife habitat and sustainability focus within our projects.

In 2015, the cross-functional “Environmental Sustainability Team” was put together to look for opportunities to integrate wildlife habitat or green infrastructure projects into the landscaping during the planning stages of most construction projects. The goal was to examine these projects and see where components could be added into the design to potentially reduce storm water runoff, increase native vegetation, or incorporate LEED elements.

In the second full year of its existence, the Environmental Sustainability Team made an impact through the implementation of wildlife habitat projects that will be installed in 2017:

  • Milford Compressor Station, Milford, MI – replacing and increasing the wildlife habitat areas that would be impacted during the expansion of the station
  • Huron Energy Center, Bad Axe, MI – creating an educational native garden to benefit birds and butterflies
  • New Milford Service Center, New Milford, Penn. – partnering this summer with a local Boy Scout camp to build, install, and monitor bat boxes to benefit bat populations (this is our first wildlife habitat outside of Michigan)

For more information, please check out dtecitizenship.org