Homes for bees, butterflies create sustainable habitats

National Pollinator Week, recognized from June 22-26, celebrates the humble bees, butterflies, bats and other bugs that pollinate and support more than 70% of the world’s crops.

Great River Energy and other electric cooperatives are among the many organizations that have played a role in re-establishing native habitat for these important species.

Great River Energy has restored approximately 200 acres of native habitat over the years. A team of employees continuously looks for ways to establish prairie and pollinator-friendly habitat along transmission lines, near substations and power plants, and on land where the cooperative has facilities.

A Monarch butterfly is pictured at Great River Energy’s pollinator-friendly prairie in Elk River.

“As part of our sustainability efforts, we are constantly looking for opportunities to create pollinator habitat on the properties we own and manage,” said Erik Heinen, Great River Energy’s environmental and sustainability administrator. “We work with local park authorities and other public land stakeholders to find suitable sites, particularly in our rights of way, to ensure that the pollinator-friendly planting will flourish. Great River Energy has spent years re-establishing native habitats where we can. These projects support our commitment to improving the environment while finding innovative solutions to manage costs – all of which are part of our sustainability efforts.”

Over the past year, Great River Energy established 6 acres of pollinator-friendly habitat at Lebanon Hills in Eagan, Minnesota, and another 2 acres at the cooperative’s McHenry substation near McHenry, North Dakota.

Great River Energy’s pollinator-friendly prairie in Elk River continues to mature since its planting in 2016. Native wildflowers will bloom at different times throughout the season. Travelers along Highway 10 will can see the prairie changing colors from spring to fall as many of the native grasses that have been establishing and developing for the first few growing season become more noticeable.

“The planting area will look like a prairie with a diverse mix of grasses and flowers this year,” said Nikki Brown, Minnesota Native Landscapes, Inc., site manager. “The planting area will look like a prairie with a diverse mix of grasses and flowers with waves of color as species bloom during the growing season.”

Minnesota Native Landscapes, Great River Energy’s prairie contractor, treats weedy species throughout the season. Perennial weedy species such as Canada thistle, crown vetch, and birds foot trefoil will be spot sprayed with herbicide. Persistent annual and biennial weeds such as bur dock, sweet clover and ragweed will be spot mowed with weed whips.

Great River Energy is deeply committed to sustainability through solid environmental policies and practices, helping to build strong communities and helping its employees and their families live healthy and productive lives.

The cooperative commits diverse resources to deliver on its promise to provide member-owner cooperatives with affordable, reliable energy in harmony with a sustainable environment.