BYRON, Ill. (April 20, 2017) — While Earth Day won’t be officially celebrated until Saturday, Exelon Generation employees have been hard at work creating one of Illinois’ largest Monarch butterfly habitats, right next door to one of the state’s largest carbon-free energy facilities – Byron Nuclear Station in Ogle County. Employee volunteers from Byron’s conservation club have spent the last two years planting milkweed on land outside the facility’s fence line to create a habitat for the Monarch butterfly, the state’s official insect. When an additional 15 acres are planted later this year, the butterfly sanctuary will stretch across 45 acres – and almost three miles – from the Byron plant to the Rock River.
This initiative is part of Exelon Generation’s ongoing commitment to biodiversity and environmental conservation. In Illinois, employees at all six Exelon Generation nuclear facilities are actively identifying and protecting rare, threatened and endangered species, part of a long-standing partnership with the Wildlife Habitat Council to restore and enhance wildlife habitats. Exelon’s commitment to the environment also includes green buildings, hybrid vehicles, natural habitat preservation, and ambitious reductions of carbon emissions and air pollutants.
At the Byron facility, “We’re planting four different types of milkweed along with warm season grasses and summer flowers,” said Jason Pitman, a work control manager at Byron Station and president of its conservation club. “This project restores the natural habitat and is creating a sanctuary with plantings, tall grasses, trees and food plots to benefit all wildlife on Exelon Generation property.”
The Monarch population has declined by almost 90 percent during the past 20 years. Many scientists believe it is due in large part to disappearing milkweed plants – the sole source of food for the Monarch caterpillar. By planting milkweed on Exelon Generation properties, Byron volunteers are joining efforts across the country to support the butterflies on their 3,000-mile annual migration through the United States to Mexico.
“It is very encouraging and inspiring to see a great company and leader in our region take such an important role in the restoration of habitat for the Monarch butterfly,” said Todd Tucker, executive director of the Byron Forest Preserve. “Habitat loss is the reason for the decline of many butterfly and bee species, and every effort large and small will help their recent decline in numbers. This large pollinator-friendly planting will have a huge positive impact to our local and national efforts for not only Monarchs but also hundreds of other bee and butterfly species.”
Exelon’s Byron-area pollinator fields will complement the nearly 2,000 acres of natural land habitat restorations underway at other nearby Byron Forest Preserve District lands. Exelon developed a five-year pollinator/Monarch plan last year in partnership with the Sand County Foundation, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that promotes conservation on working lands. Exelon Generation is committed to this conservation project at various levels across its fleet of nuclear energy plants.
Byron Generating Station is located in Ogle County, Ill., about 25 miles southwest of Rockford. Join us on Twitter and You Tube.