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Associated goes to bat for reliability and endangered species

A researcher holding an Indian bat with gloved hands.
When a G&T’s planned transmission line met a potential roadblock, the one-quarter ounce Indiana bat, the result was a win-win.
Working together, Associated Electric Cooperative and the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives developed an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that protects habitat for endangered species, like the Indiana bat, and ensures reliable transmission for members.

The agreement was noted by the Conservation Federation of Missouri, which presented the association with its esteemed Conservation Organization of the Year award.

Missouri's electric cooperatives also received the Outstanding Achievement Award in environmental stewardship from the Missouri Waste Control Coalition for its environmental work, including the habitat preservation agreement.

Associated Electric and its member systems have a history of balancing members' needs for affordable, reliable electricity with environmental stewardship. When it came to building a new transmission line and protecting an endangered species, they again went for a win-win.

Bat background:

Added to the endangered species list in 1973, the Indiana bat lives in the Midwest to eastern U.S., as well as parts of southeastern Canada. In Missouri, it hibernates in caves in the Ozarks and southeastern part of the state.

Although no Indiana bats had been spotted in the area of the transmission line, a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule prohibited clearing during the winter in the transmission corridor. This was in addition to the April 1 to Oct. 31 prohibition already in effect.

The potential impact of this new rule on costs and reliability prompted Associated Electric Cooperative, the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and Associated Electric's six G&T owners to contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and propose an agreement.

The agency agreed member cooperative systems can maintain and build necessary transmission while protecting wildlife habitat – a balance that keeps power affordable and reliable for members and protects habitat for the endangered Indiana bat.

AECI plots for pollinators

Associated received a $45,000 grant in 2017 from the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation for monarch butterfly habitat. Matching the grant with funds and in-kind labor, Associated is developing habitat on 32 acres at Thomas Hill Energy Center.

Monarch butterfly populations have declined 90 percent in the last 20 years, putting them at risk for listing as an endangered species. That could have an adverse impact on Associated and its members by creating restrictions that make it more difficult and costly to site and maintain transmission facilities and rights of way.

Instead, cooperatives allied to protect pollinators, which are important to agriculture, natural landscapes and quality of life.

Image courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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