We are the Driftless Defenders

We OPPOSE the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line

Judge William Conley has ruled in our favor in the lawsuit against four federal agencies regarding the Wildlife Refuge.
No construction will take place on “federal jurisdictional waters.”   Properties affected are interspersed along the proposed transmission line, starting in the Black Earth Creek watershed in Dane County, extending all the way across SW Wisconsin, and through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
No bond was issued.
The temporary injunction will last until the court makes a final decision on the case.  Tomorrow the case will be fully briefed and Conley estimates a decision will be made in 30-60 days.
Additional good news is that Judge Conley implies in his Opinion and Order (attached) that we will win on the merits of the case.  If the judgment is that CHC cannot be built in the Wildlife Refuge, the developers will be stuck with a line to nowhere since they need to connect Iowa to Wisconsin.
Quote from first paragraph of Opinion and Order:   “Given the balance of harms implicated by the parties and the plaintiffs’ likelihood of success on the merits, a narrowly tailored motion for preliminary injunction will be granted with respect to land on or near federal jurisdictional waters until issuance of this court’s decision on the parties’ cross- motions for summary judgment, which will be fully briefed within a day of the issuance of this order.”

We owe a great deal of thanks to Driftless Area Land Conservancy, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Refuge Association, and Defenders of Wildlife for initiating this lawsuit.  And words cannot express the thanks and admiration that need to go to Howard Learner and his team at the Environmental Law and Policy Center for their never-ending hard work and determination to stop Cardinal-Hickory Creek.

You can view the Judge’s opinion HERE

On July 30, 2021 Judge Jacob Frost of Dane County Circuit denied former PSC commissioner Mike Huebsch’s effort to


Much to our dismay, on Thursday, September 26, 2019, all three Public Service Commissioners gave their final approval for Cardinal-Hickory Creek.  The decision is being appealed in Federal and State court by Driftless Area Land Conservancy and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, represented by attorney Howard Learner, Executive Director of Environmental Law and Policy Center.  The decision is also being appealed by the Dane County Board, the Iowa County Board, and two municipalities.  More information can be found HERE.


Please sign our petition

Help stop CHC from being built through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.  Sign our petition that supports the Federal lawsuits trying to stop CHC.  This is the clearcutting already done in Iowa as ITC approaches the Mississippi River.  Please post on social media and ask your friends to sign, too.  Every signature helps!
Driftless Defenders focuses on stopping Cardinal-Hickory Creek.  At the same time, we want to alert you to a number of industrial size wind and solar farms being proposed for the Driftless Area in Southwest Wisconsin. To begin, if you are interested in learning more about the proposed Uplands Wind Farm and their massive wind turbines visit no-uplands.com.  If you have questions or want to join the opposition to this project contact info@SOULWisconsin.org.




If CHC will cross your property, we have posted information about Right-of-Ways & Easements on our PSC UPDATES page HERE


American Transmission Company (ATC), ITC Midwest, and Dairyland Power Co-op propose to build massive steel towers and 345 kilovolt transmission lines through 125 miles of our rural towns and scenic countryside. Their project, called “Cardinal-Hickory Creek” (CHC), will not provide for the greater good of the public; rather it is designed to make money for ATC, a private corporation, and its shareholders. They are guaranteed a 10.2% rate of return simply for “putting steel in the ground.”  There are better, less expensive alternatives for meeting our energy demand.  Watch our video and read below to understand our reasons for opposition.  To see where the CHC line will be built, view the interactive route map.

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.


For ongoing ways to help Driftless Defenders maintain public pressure and keep the CHC issue in the public eye, visit our Get Involved page.

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.