Grow It, Don’t Mow It!

By Tiffany Msonthi|June 26, 2013

Summer is here which typically means the increase in lawn work – like mowing fresh grass, whacking weeds, or planting native plants – but for many of our certified programs, not mowing the grass is part of the program. In fact, taller grass might be considered an environmental fashion statement especially if it’s the desire of the company to have its conservation activities recognized by receiving certification through the Wildlife at Work or Corporate Lands for Learning programs.

Photo courtesy of DTE Energy

Photo courtesy of DTE Energy

At the DTE Energy River Rouge Plant in Detroit, Michigan, you will find a sign that reads—Grow it, Don’t Mow it! A Wildlife at Work team came up with the catchy phrase as part of its effort to improve habitat on the 100 acres of open habitat space. The company recently received the WHC Huron to Erie Waterways for Wildlife Project’s Regional Corporate Habitat of the Year Award and was cited as an example of another industrial site in the area working diligently to maintain and improve habitat. Jason Cousino, Field Safety Specialist works at DTE Energy River Rouge Plant. He’s worked for the company for the past twelve years. He serves as the lead coordinator involving habitat projects for the Wildlife Habitat Council. He says there was some skepticism expressed from members of the community when the company posted the Grow it, Don’t Mow it! sign primarily because many did not understand why the grass on the company’s property remained uncut, and many considered it more of an eyesore than a sign of healthy habitat. However, Jason reports that, in time, the community began to appreciate the beautiful projects the company put together in efforts to become more habitat friendly.

The core projects at River Rouge consist of planting native plants, building bird boxes, and creating a soft shore line. The soft shore line project was a challenge to create because the site is primarily industrial. Nevertheless, the project was successful and the shoreline was restored to a natural state. 200 feet of concrete and rip rap shoreline were replaced with an aquatic reef terrace and floodplain. Employees at DTE Energy could choose other projects to get involved in but, according to Jason, working on wildlife projects “is like therapy for me…a chance to get outside.”  He also says that not only is it a pleasure for him to work with the Wildlife Habitat Council’s team of biologists, he believes it gives employees a sense of pride to work at DTE Energy. He also added it makes a difference working in an environment where the scenery is so beautiful. He’s hoping to attract more workers this year so more improvements at the site can be made continually.

Not only is DTE Energy working to maintain their Wildlife at Work certification status, the company is also working towards receiving their Corporate Lands for Learning certification. The wildlife habitat team is working with a special needs school in the community in efforts to get teachers and students there excited about improving the land at DTE Energy River Rouge Plant. About twenty two students at the school recently visited the River Rouge site to plant native plants. Jason reports that on any given day visitors or employees might see all sorts of wildlife like coyotes, deer, or even snakes.

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