We are the Driftless Defenders

We OPPOSE the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line


Federal Judge temporarily blocks Cardinal-Hickory Creek in Mississippi Wildlife Refuge

From the Washington Post March 22, 2024.  “U.S. District Judge William Conley issued a preliminary injunction on Thursday preventing American Transmission Company, ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative from beginning construction on a one-mile portion of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line that would cross the refuge. He extended the injunction indefinitely following a hearing in Madison on Friday morning.”   Full article is here


Legal Actions Resume on CHC Crossing Through the Wild Life Refuge

Here is the Press Release from ELPC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                   

March 6, 2024                                            


Conservation Groups Sue Federal Agencies for Approving Huge High-Voltage Transmission Line to Run Through and Across Protected Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge 

“We should not set a precedent that a simple land swap is all it takes to plow through a national treasure” 

Madison, WI – Today, three state and national conservation groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,  the U.S. Rural Utilities Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for violating federal laws by approving a land exchange that will allow Transmission Companies to bulldoze and construct  a high-voltage transmission line to run through and across the protected Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The Environmental Law & Policy Center, pro bono public interest attorneys, are representing the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, and National Wildlife Refuge Association in this lawsuit. The Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line’s proposed route would cut across the protected Refuge near Cassville, Wisconsin.

The lawsuit challenges the Federal Defendant agencies’ violations of National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and the Administrative Procedure Act. If built in the planned location, the east-west transmission line would cut across a major north-south migratory bird flyway used by hundreds of thousands of birds annually, including migratory waterfowl, such as cranes. Eagles use that important flyway as well.

Driftless Area Land Conservancy Executive Director Jennifer Filipiak said: 

“The Driftless Area Land Conservancy has consistently maintained that it is inappropriate to cross a National Wildlife and Fish Refuge with this massive transmission line. The transmission companies did not evaluate alternative crossings outside of the Refuge in their environmental impact statement, and we should not set a precedent that a simple land swap is all it takes to plow through a national treasure. U.S. District Judge (William M.) Conley agreed with us in the previous lawsuit, and we will again seek a ruling on this issue.”

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation President Kevyn Quamme said:

“The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is a treasured part of the Refuge system that makes the Driftless Area the very special place that people have come to love. A massive transmission line crossing through this area will be harmful to the important habitats for fish and wildlife in the Refuge and to the millions of migrating birds that pass through on the Mississippi Flyway each year. Building a transmission line through the Refuge also will serve as a deterrent to locals and tourists alike who visit the refuge and contribute to the local economy.”

Driftless Defenders is a grassroots coalition of citizens dedicated to preventing the construction of high voltage transmission lines through the geologically unique Driftless Area of Wisconsin.
Driftless Defenders focuses on stopping Cardinal-Hickory Creek.  At the same time, we want to alert you to five industrial size wind farms being proposed for the Driftless Area in Southwest Wisconsin. If you are interested in learning more about the hundreds of massive wind turbines proposed for the Driftless Area, or want to join the fight to stop them, visit thelongviewalliancewi.org.


Why we oppose the transmission lines:

Not Needed and Outmoded

  • Demand for electricity has been flat or declining in Wisconsin and adjacent states.
  • Wisconsin ranks in top ten states for grid reliability.
  • Our energy needs can be better met with locally-produced, cost-effective, and up-to-date 21st century alternatives that do not require massive and obtrusive transmission lines.

Exorbitant Cost — Paid by Us

  • Construction alone is estimated at $500-$700 million. Other expenses raise cost to over $1 billion.
  • For 40 years we will be forced to pay for this project on our electric bills, which already are among the highest in the Midwest.
  • Meanwhile, ATC investors will receive a 10.2% guaranteed annual rate of return!

Serious Economic Impact

  • Tourism businesses will suffer when the area loses its scenic appeal.
  • Real estate values will drop by as much as 40% on and near the routes of the transmission lines.
  • Property will be difficult to sell.
  • Farm operations will be compromised.

Destruction of Our Environment

  • The scenic beauty and serenity of our unique Driftless landscape and the character of our rural area will be radically and permanently altered by the presence of massive, industrial-style steel towers with their buzzing and popping wires.
  • Native plants and wildlife will be impacted.
  • Clear cutting and herbicide treatments will be used regularly to maintain a corridor under the lines measuring 150 feet wide by 125 miles long.

More About Us

Driftless Defenders is a non-partisan, all volunteer group. It began with five friends living in Dodgeville Township. Everyone along the proposed route received a letter from ATC informing them of the CHC proposal to build 170-ft tall high-voltage transmission towers across the Driftless region from Dubuque, Iowa to Middleton, Wisconsin (125 miles) via towns, farmland, nature conservancy, prairie restoration, and woodlands. These five residents sent an invitation to their neighbors to meet and discuss the situation.

To their surprise, more than 70 people from four townships gathered in a neighbor’s barn to discuss the transmission line, its economic and environmental implications, and what they could do to stop it. We named ourselves the Driftless Defenders.

From that first meeting we have grown from a tiny grassroots organization to one that reaches thousands of people dedicated to preserving the unique Driftless area and opposing the construction of unnecessary transmission lines.

Farmers, landowners, business owners, conservationists, tourists, and many others living and visiting the Driftless region, understand quite well that the construction of this high-voltage line will permanently mar a landscape that supports a thriving rural sector and a broad range of protected and endangered plant and animal species. Driftless Defenders is helping to spread the word that there is no demonstrated need for this high-capacity transmission line. There is no justification for the negative impact such a line would have on rural development, tourism, local property values, taxes, electric bills, and the environment.

Driftless Defenders is a strong proponent of meeting the energy demands of Wisconsin and its adjoining states through improvements in energy efficiency, conservation, non-transmission alternatives, and local renewables.

NOTE:  Driftless Defenders is a 501(c) (4) non-profit organization.  Donations to us are not tax exempt.

If you wish to donate to support this fight please go to our donation page.