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Presentation at Fort Wayne Zoo shows off focus on helping natural habitats

July 26, 2022

Coming in from the hot summer sun, kids with the Fort Wayne Zoo’s Teens For Nature program learned how Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) and American Electric Power (AEP) focus on helping natural habitats through pollinator plants.

Giving a virtual presentation to the group gathered at the Education Center of the Fort Wayne Zoo, Timothy Lohner and Amy Toohey, environmental specialist consultants with AEP, were able to show how a utility company can play a vital role in maintaining natural habitats in the areas we serve.

While I&M is dedicated to the mission of keeping the energy flowing, the company along with others under AEP are looking to minimize environmental impact with ongoing construction projects.

“We have a blank slate after construction,” Toohey told the group. “That same blank slate is why the team is focused on utilizing pollinator plants through specific seed mixes to restore the ground around a construction site.”

Pollinators provide vital support to our natural ecosystems, including food production. A report by EPRI notes that globally, pollinators are in decline, with some scientists estimating that 40% of pollinator species may be at risk of extinction in the coming decades.

Pollination occurs when pollen is moved within flowers or carried from flower to flower by animals such as birds, bees, butterflies, moths, and other animals or by the wind. This process leads to fertilization and production for plants. Many pollinator populations are declining due in part to climate change and loss of habitat.

Both Lohner and Toohey explained how important the work is to both the soil and animal life that depend on natural pollinators to help. The plants also help support both butterfly and bee populations in local habitats as well.

These projects don’t show results right away, and instead newly planted areas will flourish usually by 2-3 years after they are planted.

Seeing pollinator plants and their impact was something the kids with the zoo’s program were able to help with firsthand. The kids helped the zoo pull invasive plants from both the pollinator garden and the wetlands on the grounds. This will allow them to then go back and plant more pollinator plants this summer. The program, which included the presentation by AEP, helps get school age kids interested in biology and natural sciences.

Lohner and Toohey will give the presentation on our pollinator efforts up to three times this summer, helping nearly 250 local kids learn how I&M, as well as AEP, are making a difference.

As I&M and AEP build and maintain new and existing infrastructure across the service territory, such as transmission or renewable generation facilities, teams tasked with the restoration of the area continue to develop and learn how we can help local wildlife and ecosystems.

“Sometimes, all we need to do is plant it and they will come,” Lohner said.

When asked by the kids about what else the company does to help the environment, Toohey mentioned that AEP works with landowners, conservation groups and more to leave areas that see infrastructure investment on behalf of the utility in a better state than when the project started.

More information on AEP’s efforts for sustainability and environmental protection can be found here.

I&M also partnered with Red-tail Land Conservancy for environmental restoration efforts of Reber Woods near Muncie, Ind. 



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