AEP designs ‘Critter Cards’ to identify, protect endangered species in the field

If you can’t tell a sandpiper from a curlew you’re not alone. But for AEP work crews, it’s critical that they know how to identify – and take steps to protect – threatened birds and animals of all kinds.

AEP Ohio Environmental Specialist Amy Toohey in April came up with a foolproof way to help workers be good stewards of the environment and meet the needs of fish and fowl in construction areas.

The “Critter Card” has all the answers. The 2” by 3”, laminated, full-color cards carry a photo and valuable details about endangered creatures and are easily clipped to contractor ID badges.

“This project had an aggressive construction schedule and we needed to find a way to get our contractors working in the Upland Sandpiper’s potential habitat,” said Toohey. “We did not find any Upland Sandpipers and we were able to continue with construction on schedule.”

The first cards were created just in time for the Upland Sandpiper’s nesting period, which begins in mid April. Crews were on the lookout for the birds after the Ohio Power Siting Board, the state regulatory agency that approves transmission line construction in Ohio required workers to survey to see if the birds, which grow to about a foot tall and have a distinctive chevron pattern of feathers on its chest, were present at the East Amsterdam-Miller Switch Transmission Line Rebuild Project and to avoid their habitats. If a nest was found, work would stop immediately and AEP Ohio would coordinate with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The cards were an instant hit. AEP Ohio gave crews a hands-on training in sighting the birds using the cards, and the work went on uninterrupted.

AEP plans to make other “Critter Cards” for other projects as part of its ongoing efforts to care for the environment and its inhabitants in construction and other work out in the field.

AEP Ohio coordinated the cards and the information on them with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division.

“We have to balance our potential environmental and habitat impacts with providing continued reliable electric service to our customers,” said Toohey. “We feel our coordination with ODNR to protect threatened and endangered species is one step we plan on taking to be an environmentally responsible company.”