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News release: Natural Resources Foundation awards grants to conservation initiatives

ATC Stewardship Fund is part of Green Tier agreement with WDNR

MADISON, Wis. – The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin is supporting nearly a dozen nonprofit conservation groups and programs throughout the state with funding from American Transmission Co.’s Environmental Stewardship Fund, maintained by the Foundation. The ATC fund is part of the company’s commitment through its Green Tier agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Diverse projects were chosen by a selection process overseen by the Foundation’s Environmental Stewardship Fund committee. The committee, made up of conservation professionals from the nonprofit and public sector, reviewed proposals from nonprofit organizations and agencies for projects involving

•endangered species protection,
•habitat restoration and management,
•community-based conservation,
•environmental education and outreach.

Projects deemed to have the highest conservation importance are recommended to the Natural Resources Foundation board of directors for approval. Grants for 2007 are being disbursed beginning this month.

“ATC’s commitment of $300,000 in annual funding is the kind of partnership that is critical in supporting a wide variety of environmental stewardship programs and land conservation efforts across the state,” explains Charlie Luthin, executive director of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. “The Green Tier program requires companies to achieve, document and maintain a level of environmental performance that is above and beyond what is required by law. The ATC Environmental Stewardship Fund is part of that commitment.”

“We are happy to support the work of statewide and local conservation groups,” says Rita Hayen, manager of ATC’s environmental department. “When we can, we try to avoid impacts and minimize our presence in construction, operation and maintenance of transmission lines. The fund is another way we demonstrate our commitment to environmental protection.”
Following is a sample of some initiatives selected by the NRF to receive funds in 2007:

Gathering Waters Conservancy is a statewide umbrella group for land trusts. In 2006, the organization received a $30,000 grant to support a public outreach initiative in support of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. Named after a former governor and former senator renowned as conservation leaders, the program is designed to preserve valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, protect water quality and fisheries, and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation. “We organized a ‘parade of preserves’ to show state residents what the Knowles-Nelson Fund has done in their backyards,” explains Vicki Elkin, stewardship campaign director. “The grant allowed us to organize field trips to six natural areas around the state that have been protected with Stewardship Fund support.” Gathering Waters has received a 2007 grant to develop and implement a statewide communication plan about the value of the Stewardship Fund, including a publication, “Stories of Stewardship: Tales from Wisconsin’s Big Backyard.”

Mequon Nature Preserve is a 438-acre natural area within the city limits of Mequon, which officials are preserving as “a premier environmental education and recreation facility,” according to Mayor Christine Nuernberg. A master plan was completed for the preserve in 2006, and a grant from the fund is being used to develop a comprehensive trail system, scheduled to be completed in Summer 2007.

C.D. Besadny Conservation Grants Program funds projects that encourage conservation activities to promote the responsible stewardship of Wisconsin’s natural resources at the local level. The matching grants program, named after a former DNR Secretary who championed environmental education, support community groups with projects ranging from habitat restoration, accessibility, environmental education and control of invasive species. The ATC fund has supported about 38 community projects in the past two years.

James Madison Memorial High School in Madison received a 2006 Besadny grant to conduct a State Natural Areas study and field trip project. “The students were very impressed with the quality of our State Natural Areas,” says Nancy Piraino, science teacher at Memorial. “Any exposure to natural areas will hopefully heighten student interest and help them learn to appreciate the value of these sites for their protection and preservation.”

Endangered species programs also are being supported by grants from the ATC fund, including those designed to protect the following:
•Wood turtle (statewide)
•Karner blue butterfly (Burnett, Jackson, Monroe, Wood, Juneau, Adams, Waushara, Waupaca, Green Lake, Portage, Monroe counties
•Kirtland’s warbler (Jackson, Douglas, Washburn, Vilas, Marinette, Oconto counties)
•American Marten (Ashland, Bayfield, Sawyer counties)

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ATC is a Wisconsin-based company that moves energy along the regional electric grid in parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois, serving more than 5 million electric consumers. We are experts at what we do: planning, maintaining, operating and protecting the grid. As the electric industry moves toward renewable generation sources, we are transforming our system to continue delivering energy reliably and safely. We proudly support STEM education programs that empower youth with the skills needed to succeed in tomorrow’s energy workforce. For more information, visit and follow us on LinkedIn and X (Twitter).