- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

COLDWATER, Mich. (AP) - Six rare turtles have returned to their wetland habitat in Branch County following the installation of a natural gas pipeline.

A herpetologist cared for five rare Blanding’s turtles and one musk turtle while the Southwest Michigan Pipeline was installed, Margaret O’Connor, an environmental planner for Consumers Energy, said Friday. The Blanding’s turtles, which are likely more than 50 years old, all came from the same pond and were returned together. The musk turtle was put back in its wetland home about 15 miles away.

“I’m not sure who was more thrilled - us or the turtles - when they swam back into their natural environment,” O’Connor said.

Consumers Energy is proactively trying to protect the turtles and other reptiles and amphibians that might be affected by the project, according to herpetologist David Mifsud. The public utility company, which is the largest in Michigan, has been recognized for its efforts to protect natural resources, including certification through the Wildlife Habitat Council.

“They do it as conscientious environmental stewards - much of what they do is not required to preserve wildlife, Mifsud said.

The 24-mile pipeline will run through St. Joseph and Branch counties to complete a 90-mile gas pipeline corridor.

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