Power companies like Alliant Energy own and manage a lot of land around our power plants and equipment. That means we have a responsibility to protect the animals that live nearby.
Some of those animals are endangered, so we take special care to make sure they stay safe.
Key Threats to Wildlife
1. Habitat Loss --- Because our population is growing and our cities are sprawling into the countryside, fewer natural wildlife habitat areas are left each year. And the habitat that remains has often been degraded to bear little resemblance to the natural wild areas which existed in the past. In many areas, only islands of habitat remain, isolated in the middle of large agricultural or urban developments - preventing normal interactions, healthy breeding or safe travel for many species. Some wildlife species, such as deer, rabbits and chipmunks, are adaptable to many conditions, but other creatures have very specific plant, moisture and temperature requirements. These are the endangered species which we risk losing if we don't preserve adequate amounts of habitat for their survival.
Endangered Wildlife Protection
Canvasback duck populations have
declined with the loss of wetland habitat
2. Climate Change --- Because many types of plants and animals have specific habitat requirements, climate change could cause disastrous losses of wildlife species from Wisconsin. A one or two degree change in average annual temperature will translate into large changes in Wisconsin, affecting snowcover in the winter and excess heat in the summer. Many northern Wisconsin plants and animals depend on a blanket of snow to insulate them from extreme low temperatures of winter. It may be 25 degrees below zero in the open air, but barely freezing (32 degrees) beneath the snow. Without this insulation, many plant species (even trees) will decline or disappear entirely. Hibernating mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects will be harmed also. Similarly, higher temperatures would increase evaporation year round, and may reduce rainfall, leading to drier than normal conditions across the state. Plants and wildlife are sensitive to moisture changes, so they will be harmed by this dryness. Coldwater trout streams may become too warm to support trout, or may dry up. Unfortunately, trees and plants can't simply pick up and move to a more hospitable location. Instead, they will die where they stand, exposing and starving the wildlife that depend on them. Drought tolerant plants and trees will gradually spread to replace them by seed, but this process takes time. In many parts of Wisconsin, natural habitat is chopped up and isolated in small islands. This means plants and animals have no bridge to allow them to move with the changing climate. (see Climate Change in Wisconsin)
3. Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals --- Pesticides are deliberately spread to make the environment toxic to certain plants, insects or rodents, so it shouldn't be surprising that other plants and wildlife are often harmed at the same time. While many of the worst pesticides have been outlawed in the past 30 years, scientists have found numerous worries with several pesticides which are still legal and commonly used. In addition, many chemical pollutants are toxic to wildlife, such as PCBs, mercury, petroleum byproducts, solvents, anti-freeze, etc.
4. Non-native Species --- Over the past 150 years, many non-native plants, molluscs, insects, fish, birds, mammals, and diseases have found their way to Wisconsin. These include such well-known headaches as buckthorn, carp, zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, purple loosestrife, gypsy moths, Eurasian milfoil, feral cats, white perch, West Nile Virus, Japanese beetles, and starlings. These "aliens" are often aggressive competitors with native wildlife, or predatory, especially after they've left their own natural environments and controls.
5. Mismanagement --- Some native wildlife can become a problem when released from their natural population controls. When wolves are scarce and hunters too few, white-tailed deer will often strip the woods of native wildflowers (such as Trilliums) and even certain tree species (such as Hemlock), when their populations are allowed to become too high. Canada geese are beautiful birds, but when cityfolk feed native geese as if they were pets, their populations can rise to uncomfortable levels in urban areas, resulting in polluted waterways and manure-laden lawns. Gulls can become similar problems, when they scavange for scraps from our garbage heaps and landfills.