Buzzing about bees: Great River Energy talks pollinators at summit

From bees to butterflies, pollinator populations have been dwindling in recent years, and many groups have stepped in to help re-establish their native habitat. Among them, electric cooperatives have a unique opportunity to highlight their commitment to community and education by participating in the nationwide effort to bring back the bee and butterfly populations. Great River Energy has been doing its part.

On Aug. 31, Great River Energy’s Lori Buffington joined representatives from Minnesota Native Landscapes and Crop Production Services, Inc., at the 2016 REMA line supervisors’ conference in Breezy Point, Minn., to share information about the benefits of pollinator friendly habitat with electric cooperatives from across the state. Buffington highlighted a variety of pollinator habitat projects Great River Energy has developed over the last year to show what electric cooperatives can do and resources available.

“There are simple things electric cooperatives can do to take part in restoring pollinator habitat,” Buffington said. “Even small, low-cost plantings can provide significant environmental and educational benefits.”

Among electric cooperatives, Great River Energy has been a leader in this effort by developing pollinator friendly habitat underneath transmission lines, around solar arrays and on nine acres of the company’s Elk River campus.

With more than 200 acres of established native prairie plantings across the state of Minnesota, Great River Energy has been committed to native prairie habitat for more than a decade.

Great River Energy used transmission right of way that crossed Three Rivers Park District property to restore the ground after construction with pollinator friendly habitat. Using power line rights of way was specifically called out in recent years by the federal government as an opportunity to help re-establish pollinator habitat along a contiguous corridor.

In Elk River, Minn., Great River Energy has partnered with the city and the Minnesota Department of Transportation to convert its manicured, nine-acre lawn into pollinator habitat, which has significant ground water benefits among other things. And later this fall, Great River Energy will partner with the Laurentian Environmental Learning Center in Britt, Minn., to plant pollinator habitat around their new solar array.