ComEd and UIC Safeguard Nearly 4,000 Acres in Northern Illinois as Pollinator Habitats
ComEd today joined the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) in announcing it has reached a new milestone in pollinator habitat conservation, with nearly 4,000 acres of powerline corridor land now deemed pollinator habitats. Efforts to conserve pollinator habitats are part of ComEd's pledge to preserve 11,700 acres of utility owned land by 2025 for habitats that support the monarch butterfly, which is at risk of extinction.
The announcement comes in time for National Pollinator Week, which runs June 20-26, and is designed to raise awareness about the critical role that pollinators play in preserving our ecosystems.
"At ComEd, we have an important role to play in growing green space and conserving wildlife habitats across the communities we are proud to serve," said ComEd CEO Gil C. Quiniones. "With nearly 4,000 acres of land serving as pollinator habitats and ambitious plans to expand on this in the years ahead, ComEd is helping deliver a more climate-friendly environment for local wildlife, while promoting quality of life for 9 million people who live in northern Illinois."
In the last 20 years, the population of monarch butterflies has declined significantly, putting the species at risk of extinction. A primary cause of this decline is the loss of habitat containing native flowering plants that butterflies need for food and breeding, including milkweed species.
In December 2020, ComEd made its pledge to protect pollinator land when it applied for a Certificate of Inclusion within the nationwide Monarch Butterfly Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA), administered by UIC. The Monarch CCAA is a formal agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and non-federal property owners and land managers to engage in efforts to protect the monarch butterfly, which is currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Two years into the pledge, ComEd is on pace to meet its goal.
"ComEd has long been a leader in the utility industry with their environmental stewardship programs, some dating back decades," said Iris Caldwell, program manager at the UIC Energy Resources Center. "The CCAA provides a great mechanism to recognize ComEd's commitments that directly benefit pollinator species like the monarch butterfly and also showcase their management practices for others in the energy and transportation sectors to learn from."
Beginning in 2017, UIC partnered with more than 45 energy companies and transportation agencies to develop the first nationwide CCAA. The agreement, which was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in April 2020, is over the nexttwo decades expected to grow to include millions of acres of land managed nationally by energy companies and departments of transportation across the United States. In 2021, CCAA program partners managed a total of 692,557 acres of habitat and collected habitat monitoring data at 755 sites across the U.S.
"Ensuring a bright future for monarchs requires the participation and dedication of partners across society and across the continent," said Lori Nordstrom, assistant regional director for Ecological Services in the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service applaud ComEd's commitment to conserving habitat and saving a place for monarchs and other pollinators for future generations."
Beyond the CCAA and its prairie habitat designation program, ComEd has made other investments to support pollinators, including hosting honeybees on ComEd Rights of Way (ROW) and planting over 2 million milkweed seeds - the only plants that can be eaten by monarch butterfly caterpillars. This year, ComEd has committed to planting 1 million additional milkweed seeds and continuing its ongoing efforts to plant native prairie plants across the region. These habitat conservation efforts benefit numerous other species as well, such as birds, bees and other butterflies, many of which are also declining in population.
Additionally, for the past decade, ComEd has operated the Powering Communities Green Region grants - a competitive grant program working to fund community driven sustainability and ecosystem improvement projects. Since launching the program, ComEd has deployed 113 Green Region grants totaling nearly $900,000 to help expand and preserve pollinator habitats.
"Thanks to ComEd's leadership on regional pollinator protection as well as sustainability investments, the City of Prospect Heights has expanded efforts to now manage 40 acres of pollinator habitat locally," said Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commissioner Dana Sievertson. "The Green Region grants provided by ComEd have helped us launch a significant expansion of prairie space, including a new Boardwalk and Pollinator Park, that are now enjoyed by thousands of residents and are working to help threatened pollinator species to thrive."
Investments to protect pollinator habitats are also helping to launch new research by UIC environmental scientists. A recently published report demonstrates the role of the powerline corridors in enhancing insect pollinator and grassland bird biodiversity in suburban Chicagoland. Data collected from ComEd's own prairie powerline corridors found that these areas support 2.4 times more species of butterflies and moths than backyards, and more than 60 times the number of native plant species found in lawn-managed corridors.
About ComEd: Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NASDAQ: EXC), the nation's leading competitive energy provider, with approximately 10 million customers. ComEd provides service to approximately 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state's population. For more information visit ComEd.com, and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
About UIC: Located in the heart of one of the world's great cities, the University of Illinois Chicago is the city's largest university and only public research institution. Its 16 academic colleges serve more than 34,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UIC is recognized as one of the most ethnically rich and culturally diverse campuses in the nation, a leader in providing access to underrepresented students. With one of the largest colleges of medicine in the nation, and colleges of dentistry, pharmacy, public health, nursing, social work, and applied health sciences, UIC is the state's principal educator of health professionals, and its academic health center is a major health care provider to underserved communities. UIC students become professionals in fields ranging from law and business to engineering to education, liberal arts and sciences, urban planning, law and social work, as well as architecture, design and the arts. UIC is an integral part of the educational, technological, and cultural fabric of one of the world's greatest cities.