Utilities Can Protect America's Wildlife

Power companies, sewage treatment plants, and water providers can protect large amounts of wildlife habitat in cooperation with state governments, says a recent study by the nonpartisan Environmental Law Institute (ELI).

Every U.S. state and territory recently completed a "state wildlife action plan (SWAP)" identifying conservation needs for its species of concern, including threatened and endangered wildlife and other more common wildlife species. Many of the actions in the plans can be implemented by public and private electricity, water, and sewer utilities.

ELI announces the release of "State Wildlife Action Plans and Utilities: New Conservation Opportunities for America's Wildlife," a report by ELI staffers Austin Kane and Jim McElfish that identifies specific opportunities for SWAPs to inform utilities' operations and management activities. "The plans include a wealth of information on habitats and species and outline conservation actions that will help utilities better protect wildlife," says Kane. Specifically, utilities will be able to take advantage of the best available wildlife information in every state and territory to design better management practices, develop effective conservation programs, minimize adverse impacts, and enhance wildlife habitat. Hear broadcast of the announcement here, via:: The Environment Report. Details are presented below.

This report examines utilities in three states that represent a diverse range of utility types and regulatory frameworks — New Jersey, Michigan, and Washington. It identifies a wide range of opportunities for utilities and state agencies to use wildlife action plans to inform policy, planning, and management decisions. Utilities and regulators can:

• Use species and habitat information in SWAPs to guide decisions about siting new facilities or expanding operations at existing facilities;

• Develop standard practices for utility operations, maintenance activities, and land and water management, using information on species, habitat, and conservation actions; and

• Incorporate SWAP information into existing utility conservation and stewardship programs to improve or expand these programs.

State and local regulatory agencies also can build on the wildlife action plans when regulating utilities. The study suggests that these regulators:

• Consult SWAPs when setting mitigation, permitting, siting, or other requirements for utilities;

• Post SWAPs on websites so that the plans are accessible to utilities, including relevant provisions that may affect planning, construction, or operations and maintenance; and

• Use SWAPs in revising or developing local land use plans, ordinances, and management policies.

This report also highlights the wide variety of activities that utilities are implementing to conserve wildlife on their lands and waters. For example, in Michigan, DTE Energy has 11 power plants that are wildlife certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council. Clark Public Utility District in the State of Washington funds a voluntary watershed restoration program, and New Jersey's Morris County Utility Authority purchases open space to protect its water sources. These and other utilities implementing similar activities are taking important steps to protect wildlife, and the wildlife action plans provide an additional opportunity for them to further their conservation efforts.

The report may be read and downloaded from the ELI homepage, here.

Image credit::USA,Redmond Washington, Future Vision for Redmond: Utilities; Puget Sound Energy trail under power lines

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Tags: Michigan | New Jersey

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