NIPSCO planting flowers to attract butterflies, bees, birds

 

NIPSCO press release and photo

NIPSCO and NiSource are taking steps to help pollinators in the thousands of miles of rights of way (ROWs) they service across the country. Company employees have committed to taking innovative approaches to managing the land below their lines. Experts from NiSource and NIPSCO work to remove harmful invasive species and plant pollinator-friendly native plants in their place, creating areas where these imperiled pollinator species can survive and thrive.

Why is this important? Pollinators such as birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles and other small mammals are responsible for delivering one out of every three bites of food that humans eat.

Pollinators add 217 billion dollars to the global economy annually according to “The economic value of ecological services provided by Insects” published in the scientific journal Bioscience, and honey bees alone are responsible for between 1.2 and 5.4 billion dollars in agricultural productivity every year in the United States according to “Estimating the Economic Value of Honey Bees as Agricultural Pollinators in the United States” published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

In addition to the food that we eat, pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather and support other wildlife.

Northern Indiana, where NIPSCO operates and maintains numerous electric and natural gas facilities, has some of the most biodiverse landscapes in the U.S. The Indiana Dunes National Park ranks highest in biodiversity of the National Parks System and includes over 1,100 native plants.

NIPSCO’s ROWs are critical habitat connectors in Northwest Indiana, helping to support wildlife and pollinator species migration across the landscape. Pollinator species such as the monarch butterfly, Karner blue butterfly, various species of bees and others have already begun using these ROWs as they migrate across NIPSCO’s service territory.

To manage these important biodiverse areas, NIPSCO employs a number of measures, including conservation mowing, targeted invasive species control and native plant reintroductions. Invasive species, such as common reed, pose as one of the greatest risks to native plant communities and pollinator habitats.

Among several ongoing projects focused on improving the native biodiversity along NIPSCO ROWs, NIPSCO’s environmental team is proud to report signs of successful habitat restoration, including:

Calumet Trail:

In order to better promote pollinator habitat on the Calumet Trail and other ROWs adjacent to the Indiana Dunes National Park, NIPSCO received funding by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2020 in partnership with the National Park Service and Save the Dunes. As a result of the project, NIPSCO enhanced more than 300 acres of ROWs that will have both a direct and indirect benefit to pollinator species and the park.

NIPSCO’s Calumet Trail ROW, just south of the Indiana Dunes National Park, spans 10 miles and more than 200 acres of high-quality sedge meadow, emergent marsh, wet prairie and dry prairie habitat. Within this area, extending from Mount Baldy to Cowles Bog, NIPSCO has identified and nurtured more than 400 species of pollinator-friendly native plants, while discouraging the growth of invasive non-native species.

R.M. Schahfer Generation Station:

NIPSCO has seen significant improvement on more than 25 acres of ROW near the R.M. Schahfer Generation Station, now converted into a high quality native sand prairie complex. This was a multi-year effort to eradicate autumn olive and other undesirable vegetation followed by the inter-seeding of a high quality native seed mix. Monarch butterflies and other pollinator insects began using the ROW as soon as it was established.

Karner Blue Butterfly Conservation:

Ongoing since 2005, NIPSCO’s Karner Blue Butterfly Conservation Action Plan strives to improve the native habitat of the Karner, a federally protected species. The life cycle of the Karner is dependent on the wild lupine plant as the caterpillars feed solely on wild lupine plant leaves. NIPSCO has taken measures not only to improve lupine populations on its rights of way, but also to improve habitat suitable for the Karner throughout the butterfly’s current and former range. Vegetation management, seasonal access restrictions, seeding of lupine and beneficial nectar species and invasive species control efforts have substantially increased lupine populations and habitat quality within NIPSCO ROWs since management activities began in 2005.

For more information about NIPSCO conservation efforts, visit NIPSCO.com/environment.

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