Pesticides are the number one threat to pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and bats, according to the U.S. USDA’s short list. To help reverse this effect, President Obama signed the Pollinator Health Protection Act in May 2016 to create a pollinator conservation center in Connecticut. The next step in this initiative will be to find ways to further save pollinators from pesticides and other threats such as disease and habitat loss.
A new hope for pollinators
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will open a new conservation center today, that will focus on pollinators: the bees, butterflies, birds and bats that are essential for plant reproduction. The Pollinator Stewardship Center is located at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The site is home to the FWS’s National Pollinator Health Strategy and National Pollinator Research Center. The training center also hosts several other government agencies including the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Department of Defense, and others. The center is the first of its kind and will provide an interagency platform to address the challenges facing pollinators. The strategy was developed by the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health earlier this year after the release of the 2015 White House report The Federal Plan to Save America’s Pollinators. The plan calls for increased collaboration between federal agencies, as well as state, tribal, local governments and private organizations working toward similar goals.
A problem with no easy solution
There’s no easy solution to the problem of pollinators disappearing from our ecosystem, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is stepping up its game with the creation of a new Pollinator Conservation Center , headquartered on the grounds of the agency’s Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland. The center will house the world’s largest collection of pollinating insects—including bees, butterflies, moths, flies and beetles—and will serve as an educational resource for scientists and the public alike. It’ll also be open to researchers who want to study the effects of pesticides on these insects (an issue that has recently come under fire by environmental groups). The center was created thanks to an act passed by Congress last year; it will officially open in September 2016.
How you can help
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new Pollinator Conservation Center will open at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, part of the $900 million President Obama announced for honeybee research and habitat protection last week, as part of a coordinated plan by the USFWS and its partners to help pollinators thrive for generations to come. While many factors have contributed to declining populations of bees and other pollinators, loss of critical habitat is a primary cause. By creating more bee-friendly habitats on public lands, we can better protect these important species that are essential to our food supply. In addition to their ecological value, pollinators also contribute billions of dollars each year through improved crop yields and support an estimated one out of every three bites we take.
Why it’s so important
Pollinators play a vital role in our food supply—one we’re just beginning to understand. Thanks, in part, to public awareness campaigns and an increased interest by local governments, there’s been an uptick in recent years of new research and initiatives geared toward protecting pollinators and their habitat. The United States is launching a national pollinator conservation center—the first of its kind—to foster research on how we can better protect pollinators across America. This will be big news for beekeepers and other people who work with bees. It also comes at a time when bee populations are struggling. We want to provide solutions that help ensure our nation’s food security while safeguarding pollinator health and diversity, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement announcing funding for the center. Our agricultural system depends on bees as crop producers, honey producers, and insect control agents – which makes protecting them all that more important.