“The law governing refuges is clear: wildlife comes first,” said Mike Senatore, vice president of Conservation Law with Defenders of Wildlife. “We urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to accept the court’s decision that this proposed project has no business cutting through the Upper Mississippi refuge.”  

Washington, DC

Since 1924, the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge has been a sanctuary for migratory birds, fish, wildlife and people. Stretching 261 river miles from Minnesota to Illinois, the refuge protects more than 240,000 acres of Mississippi River floodplain.  

Each year, hundreds of thousands of waterfowl migrate to and breed in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. More than 290 species of birds migrate throughout the refuge every year. Just this week, there have been sightings of Canada geese, bald eagles, mallard ducks, green-winged teals, ring-billed gulls, American white pelicans and northern shovelers as they migrate north from Mexico and other points south.  But it’s more than birds that call the refuge home. The refuge is home to 11 species of frogs and toads that sing, chirp and croak from April to August. And it’s a great place to see otters, beavers, coyotes, and white-tailed deer. 

Although the refuge is a Wetland of International Importance and a Globally Important Bird Area, it faces a serious threat from utilities that seek to install industrial-grade transmission towers across a particularly unspoiled part of the refuge. Defenders of Wildlife, the Environmental Law & Policy Center and other groups are working together to protect this refuge and the hundreds of species of migratory birds that rely on it for survival.   

Fortunately, a federal judge blocked the companies’ plans to bisect the refuge by stringing a high voltage power line across the river. However, at the urging of big energy companies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still considering whether to allow industrial-scale, 20-story high electricity transmission towers to cut a destructive gash right through an unspoiled area of the refuge.  

“The law governing refuges is clear: wildlife comes first,” said Mike Senatore, vice president of Conservation Law with Defenders of Wildlife. “We urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to accept the court’s decision that this proposed project has no business cutting through the Upper Mississippi refuge.”  

In January, the court overturned the project’s environmental impact statement and sent it back for review after finding the Rural Utilities Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In addition to the court’s findings stating that the agency's federal environmental review of alternatives was too narrow, the court ruled that the line itself is incompatible with the purpose of the refuge and therefore violated the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act. 

“The U.S. District Court’s comprehensive decision that the massive Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line violated environmental laws and is not compatible with the purpose of the refuge is well grounded in facts,” said Howard Learner, Attorney for the Conservation Organizations and Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Running a huge high-voltage transmission line with 20-story high towers through the protected National Wildlife Refuge is illegal and is contrary to common sense and sound policy.” 

The National Wildlife Refuge System is the only system of public lands dedicated to the conservation of wildlife. Refuges protect America’s wildlife, fish and plants, ensuring these important habitats and the wildlife that depend on them are around for generations to come.  

Take a moment to urge the FWS to find solutions to the region’s electricity needs without spoiling the Refuge! Don’t let this massive industrial power line development destroy habitat in the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife Refuge. Add your signature now! 

Defenders of Wildlife is celebrating 75 years of protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Media Contact

Communications Specialist
karberg@defenders.org
(202) 772-0259

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