Jim Bennett

In the United States one third of all agricultural crop production depends on pollinators. They include bees, beetles, bumblebees, butterflies, wasps, some animals and flies. Those may not be a favorite of yours but they are vital to our survival. Imagine walking into a grocery store tomorrow and being told by the grocer that they can no longer get 1/3 of the food you had on your grocery list. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), fruit and vegetable growers in every state, in this case Pennsylvania, can attest to the importance of pollinators and are promoting habitat because their lives and survival have a direct correlation to our lives and our survival because we have to eat.

Project Wingspan is the best plan I’ve seen and last year became based right here in Wisconsin and will be moving into Minnesota this year. I became aware of all this last weekend when I met Amber Barnes at Pheasant Fest, a large sportsman show in the Minneapolis Convention Center. Barnes is the Wildlife Conservation Ecologist for the Great Lakes Region that includes 6 other states. Her enthusiasm and recognition of the importance of protecting our pollinators brought their plan into focus for me and gave me new insight to bring this vital story and discourse to you.

“We are looking to create a pollinator partnership with public land managers and private landowners who are committed to the long term conservation of pollinators, their habitat in what we have named Project Wingspan!” said Barnes.

“We are a grant funded and reaching out for people who are committed to enhancing their land for monarch butterflies (down 50% in numbers), rusty patched bumble bees (down 90% in numbers and the Minnesota State Insect) as well as other imperiled pollinators. We are asking anyone interested who are public or private land stewards to participate in a preliminary online survey to identify habitat areas (minimum of 1 acre) across the land.”

Barnes added, “We are looking to connect volunteer groups identify vital wild flowers and plants to collect seed as a first step. They would then be redirected to work with a coordinator on the various projects. It’s all about planning, preparing and becoming part of the team with those hosting the trainings, later on their own, for the same end goal--preserving precious habitat.”

As Barnes put it, “Regardless of where your interest lays, it’s the animal, the pollinator that is more important. It’s all about the resource, the habitat that supports all of us. That habitat is crucial for our well being and our way of life we have right now.”

What can you do to get started? Barnes said to visit this link to complete the online survey: http://www.pollinator.org/wingspan/survey or you can e-mail Elizzabeth Kaufman at ek@pollinator.org to learn more.

Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at jamesbennett24@gmail.com


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