Fresh water is arguably humans’ most precious resource. It is vital for our life and that of the natural world around us. In spite of its vitality, fresh water makes up less than 1% of the global water supply. Therefore, it is imperative that we make every possible effort to conserve and protect the freshwater resources in our communities. Listed here are six easy ways that corporations can help protect the freshwater resources in their local watershed.
On April 22, 2016, Praxair Burns Harbor Industrial Gases hosted 20 volunteers from ArcelorMittal and a variety of other companies and conservation organizations to tackle the removal of invasive species from a small, wet pin oak woodland and sedge meadow located on the Praxair Burns Harbor Plant property. Volunteers came from the Wildlife Habitat Council, the Gary Conservation Team, the U.S. Forest Service, and members of the Indiana Coastal Cooperative Weed Management Group (including Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy, and Shirley Heinze Land Trust).
WHC is the recipient of an Indiana Coastal Management grant from the Indiana DNR Coastal Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop early detection and control of invasive species projects on coastal industrial facilities. This grant has allowed us to reach out to several companies in the Lake Michigan coastal region of Northwest Indiana and develop on-the-ground programs that engage employees in the control of invasive species and expand their participation in conservation programs organized by members of the Indiana Coastal Cooperative Weed Management Group. Companies participating in this ongoing collaborative effort include ExxonMobil’s Hammond Terminal, ArcelorMittal’s Burns Harbor, ArcelorMittal’s Global R&D, and Praxair’s Lakeshore Plant.
During the April 22 cooperative workday, volunteers focused on removing two non-native, invasive species that are common invaders of Midwestern forests and oak savannas: honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet. The volunteers used a technique known as the “cut-stump method,” in which the shrubs are cut down and herbicide applied directly to the stump to prevent regrowth. Also on the agenda was to review with Praxair a site conservation plan that includes management of the pin oak wetland and the open spaces outside operations, as well as the creation of native and pollinator-friendly landscapes on the large berms created during the facility’s construction in the 1970s.
The group also shared their common knowledge and experience of working on site and in proximity to lands owned and managed by the National Park Service’s Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Indiana Dunes is celebrating its 50th anniversary and the National Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary. (Happy Centennial to the National Park Service!) By managing private conservation lands around the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, companies like Praxair are making a direct contribution to the biodiversity of the coastal region and the ecological health of public lands.
Multi-partner workdays like those at Praxair’s Burns Harbor demonstrate the power of collaboration in habitat conservation. When companies, agencies, and conservation organizations work together to restore native habitats, it helps everyone enhance the conservation value of their communities.
If your company would like to participate in our cooperative efforts in Northwest Indiana, we would be proud to have you participate! Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how your company can contribute to conservation efforts in this region.
Wildlife Habitat Council’s Huron to Erie Waterways for Wildlife Project has announced this year’s winners of the project’s regional awards; the Huron to Erie Project unites about 40 corporate conservation programs in southeast Michigan and southwest Ontario.
WHC President Margaret O’Gorman said, “We’re very proud of the conservation being accomplished on local and regional levels, which adds up to a global impact by WHC member companies.”
Award winners are DTE Energy River Rouge Power Plant for Regional Corporate Habitat of the Year and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) US Headquarters and Technology Center for Seedling Corporate Habitat of the Year.
The winners were chosen by a panel of independent judges from the conservation community. The judges’ selections were from among the 20 corporate conservation programs in the region that were certified by WHC in 2015.
Employee volunteers at DTE Energy River Rouge Power Plant, who won the Regional Corporate Habitat of the Year Award, have established and maintain native-plant pollinator gardens, demonstration grasslands, nest boxes, bat houses, and a nesting platform for peregrine falcons. The team also modified two unused ship-mooring structures to create nesting habitat for the state-threatened common tern.
Recently, an additional five acres of lawn were converted to a wooded prairie that will act as a nature area and outdoor classroom. The new nature area supports education for at-risk high school students, graduate students, and science teachers.
DTE Energy’s River Rouge Power Plant has maintained a WHC-certified wildlife habitat program since 2004.
The “Seedling” award is presented to a newer conservation program. FCA US Headquarters and Technology Center’s program was first certified in 2013. That office and research campus includes natural wetlands that host a great blue heron rookery (nesting colony). The team enhances this habitat by managing the water levels and quality and by ensuring the area around the rookery is undisturbed during the nesting season. They have monitored the heron colony since 2010.
In 2013 and 2014, the team installed a series of pollinator gardens using strictly native species. Some of these comprise a Monarch Waystation, including the milkweed plants on which monarch caterpillars depend.
Brian Klatt, director of Michigan Natural Features Inventory, told award winners and nominees, “As one who works full time to protect habitat for native species, I thank you for your very effective voluntary actions. All of the judges were deeply impressed with the breadth and depth of conservation carried out by the award winners and by other nominees.”
Along with Mr. Klatt, other judges were Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant educator; and Cyndi Ross, Friends of the Rouge river restoration program manager.
Also nominated for Regional Corporate Habitat of the Year were DTE Energy Downtown Headquarters and ITC Holdings Corporate Headquarters. GM Orion Assembly and ITC Transmission Right of Way at Sterling State Park were nominated for Seedling Corporate Habitat of the Year.
One of my favorite bird species is the spectacular bird-of-prey, the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). This bird can be found on six continents around the world, though it does not occur in large numbers in most areas.
This bird is amazing because not only has it recovered from the brink of extinction in North America, it is now thriving in many regions because it has adapted really well to urban settings. It naturally nests on ledges high up on cliffs, easily out of reach of most predators. With the increasing growth of cities with tall buildings and abundant prey in the modern era, peregrines have found new nesting opportunities on the roofs and ledges of skyscrapers and other tall structures like water towers, power pylons, and bridges.
At WHC’s main office in Silver Spring, we routinely see the resident pair of peregrine falcons soaring high above us and hunting the city’s numerous pigeons. Peregrines and other falcons are aerial hunters, meaning they catch their prey while in flight. Peregrines use a swift dive, or “stoop,” that is spectacular to watch. A peregrine’s stoop can reach over 200 mph (320 kmh), making it the fastest animal on earth!
These birds are known for using their speed and agility to prey upon a wide variety of birds, mostly medium-sized birds, including several species that can be a nuisance in urban settings like pigeons and starlings. Although falcons won’t eliminate the pigeon or starling population in a city, they can certainly help to keep it in check.
If you want to help peregrines at your corporate facility, one of the best ways is to work with your state wildlife agency to implement the appropriate measures for your site. These birds are still protected by law and can be very defensive of their nests, so before taking any actions it will be important to consult with the agency about things like safety precautions or requirements related to their protection. A common and often successful project is the installation and monitoring of a nest box for peregrines. This kind of structure provides a secure, ledge-like nesting location that provides some protection against the elements, and many facilities use a nest cam to monitor the nest with minimal disturbance to the birds. Discussions with your wildlife agency will also help determine if other projects such as artificial raptor perches, banding of peregrine chicks, or release of captive-reared peregrines would be appropriate for your facility.
Migratory species from sandhill cranes to polar bears travel thousands of miles each year as the seasons change. Without the aid of GPS technology they find their way with an instinct as old as each species itself. This instinct allows them to traverse both natural and man-made landscapes effortlessly without regard for state lines or international borders. Despite migratory species’ remarkable navigational skills, their journeys are not always safe, and their destinations may no longer exist in their natural forms upon their arrival.
When it comes to protecting migratory species, thinking within the boundaries of your own backyard is not enough. If the bald eagle enjoys safe refuge in Alaska during the summer months but finds their habitat devastated by human activities when it migrates to California for the winter, their life is still in grave danger.
International law has begun the expansive process of protecting migratory species. Globally, states that have ratified the Convention of the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) recognize that they are the protectors of migratory species that live within or pass through their national boundaries. Therefore, member states seek “to conserve the habitat of migratory species that would significantly benefit from international cooperation.” These conservation efforts are required to include trans-national coordinated conservation and management plans. North American countries are not a part of the CMS agreement, but they do work to conserve migratory birds through enforcement of the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This treaty declares that killing, selling, and possessing migratory birds is a felony punishable by federal fines and imprisonment.
In addition to acting in accordance with conservation laws, corporate conservation teams can play an active role in protecting migratory species in other ways. For example, by using the free IPaC planning tool, it is possible to learn what species’ habitats are on your property and if those species are migratory. If any species are migratory, you can find out where they migrate to and contact corporations working in that region. The point of this contact should be to initiate a joint effort to protect and conserve your common migratory species. This communication could prove valuable to both corporate teams and wildlife, as the conservation effort could allow you collaborate with other corporations, while also ensuring the presence of both the summer and winter habitats needed by migratory species.
We cannot protect wildlife by thinking like a human. Instead, we must be willing to look at the world through the eyes of the migratory species we wish to protect, looking beyond their borders, and spotting new opportunities for connection.
SILVER SPRING, MD, JUNE 8, 2016 – The Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), along with its members General Motors and Toyota Motor North America, have been jointly honored with the 23rd Annual Keystone Policy Center Leadership in Environment Award, recognizing their partnership to expand wildlife habitat, support pollinator health, and enhance biodiversity around the world.
Accepting the award will be Margaret O’Gorman, President, WHC; Kevin Butt, Regional Director, Toyota North American environmental division; and Greg Martin, Executive Director, Global Public Policy, General Motors Company.
“We’re honored to share this award with General Motors and Toyota,” said O’Gorman. “Only 10 percent of Fortune Global 500 companies have adopted biodiversity goals, including GM and Toyota, and as such, their efforts towards conservation and biodiversity across the globe are exemplary models for other corporations to follow.”
The Keystone Policy Center, a Colorado-based nonprofit organization founded in 1975, also presented the following awards at a dinner ceremony at The Newseum in Washington, D.C. on June 8, 2016:
About Wildlife Habitat Council
Wildlife Habitat Council promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on corporate lands through partnerships and education. WHC’s programs take corporate sustainability goals and objectives and translate them into tangible and measurable on-the-ground actions. WHC membership includes 85 corporations, many of which are Fortune 500 companies, including Bridgestone, Chevron, DuPont, Exelon, Freeport-McMoRan, General Motors, Pacific Gas & Electric and Waste Management. WHC-assisted wildlife habitat and conservation education programs are found in 45 states and 13 countries. www.wildlifehc.org
About Keystone Policy Center
The Keystone Policy Center has worked at the forefront of public policy and dispute resolution for more than 40 years. From energy to education and health to sustainability, Keystone’s work has shaped public policy debates at local, state, and national levels. Keystone’s exceptional combination of experience and expertise have led to groundbreaking progress and lasting solutions when all other efforts have failed. www.keystone.org
About General Motors
General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.
Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world’s top automaker and creator of the Prius and the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, is committed to building vehicles for the way people live through their Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands. Toyota partners with philanthropic organizations across the country, with a focus on education, safety and the environment. As part of this commitment, we share the company’s extensive know-how garnered from building great cars and trucks to help community organizations and other nonprofits expand their ability to do good. For more information about Toyota, visit www.toyotanewsroom.com.
By now you’ve almost certainly heard about the massive wildfire that has devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta, nicknamed “the beast” by local firefighters. This wildfire has so far destroyed about 10% of the city of Fort McMurray, as well as hundreds of thousands of acres of native boreal forest in the surrounding area. As of this writing the fire is still not under control and additional evacuations have been ordered. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
Fires in nature act as a clearing mechanism for accumulated organic debris, and in some ecosystems fire is actually required to release seeds from pinecones or to stimulate seed germination. In North America, naturally-occurring fire regimes historically ranged from frequent, low-intensity fires that cleared the understory every few years, to infrequent, stand-replacing fires every few hundred years. However, the former is much more common, with many species in fire-adapted ecosystems able to withstand these low-intensity fires.
However, policies that result in the total suppression of wildfires in many areas has led to the accumulation of fuel on the forest floor – dried leaves and pine needles, branches, etc. If a fire burns through areas with this kind of accumulated fuel, the fire burns hotter, taller, and faster than the forest can withstand, leaving little unburned. You can see in this video from the Guardian the flames in the Fort McMurray wildfires were sometimes so tall and hot they engulfed entire mature trees.
Dry conditions like Alberta experienced this winter and spring increase the likelihood that fires will start from lightning strikes or other ignition sources. A dry fuel load and low humidity exacerbate the intensity of fires that do ignite.
One effective compromise between the need for fire to maintain fire-adapted ecosystems and the desire to protect homes, businesses, and wildlife from uncontrolled wildfires is to use controlled burns, in which land managers intentionally set, contain, and manage a controlled, low-intensity fire.
For more information about the Fort McMurray wildfire and the role of wildfires in ecosystems, I encourage you to read this article by Leyland Cecco, which uses the Fort McMurray wildfire to provide an in-depth analysis of the conditions that lead to the destructive power of these kinds of wildfires.
In the now classic movie, Dirty Dancing, the final scene starts with everybody’s favorite movie line, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!” This iconic line comes to mind every time I see an infographic explaining the circular economy, but the “Baby” in this case happens to be nature, expelled from the closed loop although materially impacted by it.
Circular economy or closed loop systems are, depending on who you ask, merely grandiloquent terms for recycling or the next best thing to address the impact of industrial processes on the planet. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation, one of the leading voices on circularity, presents the various schools of thought on the concept with a diversity of approaches to circularity, some of which are more transactional than others.
William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle manifesto is one of the few to address nature and its needs as an integral part of the system, beyond being just an ingredient within the system. His circular model calls for respecting biodiversity as a value rather than an input. This respect for biodiversity is contained within McDonough’s ethos of a respect for diversity in all of its forms. In contrast, the concept of biomimicry views nature as a commodity, providing its biology, chemistry and engineering to solve human problems.
Circular economy approaches are very valuable at driving innovation in manufacturing processes, waste management and consumption patterns. Removing waste from industrial and consumption cycles, reducing materials used to make goods, and encouraging cascading benefits of by-products are all positive steps toward decreasing our collective weight on the planet and increasing the life of our natural resources.
But this approach shares many of the same weaknesses with respect to nature that natural capital accounting, ecosystem service valuation, and other economy-first initiatives share ― they all put biodiversity in the corner to the detriment of all life on the planet.
As McDonough says in Cradle to Cradle, “When diversity is nature’s design framework, human design solutions that do not respect it degrade the ecological and cultural fabric of our lives.” It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s just the easier to extract a process and close it than attempt to interweave processes the way nature does in the ultimate closed loop that is planet Earth.
One environmental thought leader who expressed the need to integrate biodiversity loss into environmental impact assessments and to think about species beyond their use as resources is Pope Francis, writing in Laudato Si, a document released by the Vatican in June 2015. Although this papal encyclical has been politically reduced to a plea for action on climate change, the Pope covers a broad variety of environmental issues and says that “a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.” He’s not just talking circular economy in this passage, but he certainly highlights the shortcomings of a closed loop process that ignores the thing on which it sits.
There are many things that industry can do to address its impact on nature and embrace the restorative imperatives contained within circular economy models. Where impacts are direct ― like on lands used for extraction ― approaches to land management during operations and design of reclamation and restoration can focus on exceeding regulatory requirements to provide maximum benefit for biodiversity. At its Marblehead Quarry in Ohio, LafargeHolcim is actively managing for the recovery of the rare and endangered lakeside daisy by using crushed limestone screenings to create the alkaline conditions required by the plant, whose only known occurrence in the state is in Ottawa County where the quarry is located.
Across all industrial sectors, non-operational lands can be managed to respect biodiversity and restore nature, rather than managed in ways that limit its exuberance such as through frequent mowing or landscaping with non-native species. By including the entire industrial footprint in the closed loop, a circular process can have a significant restorative impact on biodiversity. WHC’s recent white paper, Prioritizing Pollinators in Corporate America, shows how easily an entire footprint can be utilized for positive outcomes that meet a national need.
No loop is fully closed or sealed off. Every process contains manufactured goods and the ingredients that make them – all must be moved across the globe, and these movements create pathways for the spread of invasive species and wildlife diseases. By including product movement in the closed loop, operations along the manufacturing process, from extraction all the way to retail, can have an impact on two of the greatest threats to biodiversity worldwide.
Finally, the needs of biodiversity can be considered in the cascades, or by-products of a closed system. General Motors set – and already surpassed – a global goal to achieve 100 landfill-free facilities by 2020. They are creating circularity in their manufacturing processes in many ways. The company also has a biodiversity goal that all of its manufacturing facilities worldwide secure WHC Conservation Certification by 2020. These goals became intertwined when GM started to convert scrap Chevy Volt battery covers into nesting boxes for wildlife, cascading a product to benefit biodiversity.
Whether it’s called circular economy, regenerative design, cradle to cradle manufacturing or any other fancy word for recycling, it’s not necessary that these waste elimination and resource-use reduction processes and approaches be laminated onto nature. They in fact can include nature in many ways and fully embrace the restorative imperative. We just need to open the closed loop and take biodiversity out of the corner.
Many corporate facilities are located in urban and industrial areas, where wildlife habitat tends to occur in small, isolated patches. In areas such as these, projects like native gardens are all the more important for the conservation of pollinators, birds, and other native animals.
Urban gardening with native species is suitable to a variety of settings, from urban corporate landscapes to home gardens. Like urban tree planting initiatives, native gardening projects provide multiple benefits for urban neighborhoods. They can help to revitalize urban neighborhoods by improving visual aesthetics and providing a place for people to reconnect with nature and with their neighbors. Urban gardens also contribute to cooler urban temperatures, produce oxygen, filter rainfall, and improve infiltration. In addition, urban gardens that include native plants can provide habitat for pollinators, songbirds, and other urban wildlife.
Not sure where to begin? Whether you’re starting from scratch with a new garden or revamping an existing garden at your facility, it will be easiest to first decide what your goals are for the garden. Do you want lots of colorful, delicate butterflies, or maybe zippy little hummingbirds? Try planting some colorful nectar-bearing flowering forbs, vines, and shrubs. Or maybe you’d rather attract birds that will fill your garden with their songs? You’ll want to plant shrubs that produce lots of berries and forbs that produce seeds, as well as trees for nesting if you have the room. Or perhaps you’d prefer to manage stormwater runoff with your garden—you could plant native vegetation that can tolerate occasional flooding to create a rain garden.
We’ve got a number of articles and other resources in our Knowledge Center to help you learn about native gardening – check out some of these to get you started:
If you’d like specific recommendations on how to design your urban garden for wildlife, don’t hesitate to contact us at WHC@wildlifehc.org.
Hate mosquitos? You’re not alone! Although they are an important part of the ecosystem, too many mosquitos can create quite a nuisance. They buzz in your ear and leave red, itchy welts when they bite, and some even transmit diseases like West Nile Virus and malaria.
Luckily, nature has provided us with many natural mosquito predators to help keep them under control.
Bats in temperate areas of the world tend to be insectivorous, with voracious appetites for mosquitos and other flying insect pests. A single bat can eat about 1,200 insects an hour, and about 6,000-8,000 insects a night. Female bats that are nursing young may even eat up to their weight in insects nightly.
Insectivorous birds like purple martins, swallows, eastern kingbirds, and yellow warblers are also known for eating flying insects, including mosquitos, though to a lesser extent.
So if you have a problem with mosquitos and other flying pest insects, try enhancing your site’s habitat to attract these natural insect predators. You could install artificial structures that provide nesting and roosting habitat, such as nest boxes for birds and bat houses or other artificial roosts for bats. You should also make sure the surrounding habitat provides the resources and complexity needed by the species you want to attract, including plenty of native vegetation that will provide additional food sources and cover habitat. Not only will you contribute to conservation of these species, you’ll also be helping yourself!
It’s important to remember that none of these species will provide a singular solution to controlling mosquitos in all locations. Rather, attracting natural predators is an important step in long-term planning for reducing mosquito numbers in your area.