Hurry up! Don't miss the buzz in Cedar Rapids. You can be a central part of it! Conservation steps are taking root as the city and the people of Iowa begin restoration of natural habitats. We have heard the devastating news that our most significant pollinators - the honey bees - are losing ground. Literally. Fortunately, we can do something about it, and the solution will be taking place in our very own backyards!
Scientists are discovering that "the pollinator crisis is caused by a variety of factors, including pesticides, pathogens, and climate change. Meanwhile, with farms, parking lots, mowed lawns, and other human developments replacing wildflower fields, bees have been losing habitat and their food supply." The insects that allow us to produce most of our fruiting crops are in serious trouble.
The people of Cedar Rapids are stepping up to help their tiny residents prosper by hosting the 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative. This really is a grass-roots (and flower roots) campaign that is reestablishing the natural flora that bees and other insects rely on. The Pollinator Initiative is partnered with the national Monarch Research Project.
The plantings will happen over a five-year period, according to Cedar Rapids Park Superintendent Daniel Gibbins. After receiving an impressive $180,000 budget from Iowa and the Monarch Research Project, Gibbins' team will begin the slow reconstruction of Iowa's lost habitat. Less than 1% of native (pre-agricultural) plants remain in the state. That figure is hard to fathom. "When you convert it back to what was originally native Iowa, you're going to help a lot more than just native pollinators. You're helping birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals—everything that's native here relies on native vegetation," Gibbons assures.
Iowa's conservation mission is to cultivate natural prairie grasses and plants that flourished before being overwhelmed by "monoculture" agricultural and lawns. The flowering species attract butterflies and bees, while the rugged and deep-rooted prairie grasses impede the growth of non-native plants and undesirable weeds. The project's planting areas will include culverts, waste-lands, and stretches of parking lots, golf courses, airfields, and road verges.
The reseeding is not a straightforward task. Invasive species have taken over much of the state and will need to be removed (through burns and mowing) before the native plants are set down. Beautiful heritage flowers, milkweed, and prairie grass still require tending, and fighting back the invading plants will be a periodic problem.
Iowa is once again in the lead when it comes to maintaining natural resources. You can join this exciting project and become a conservation hero. Contact the 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative to find out how you can get involved. The first stage will occur with the city "preparing 170 acres for prairie conversion... along the Sac & Fox Trail and at Squaw Creek, Beverly, Noelridge, Wilderness Estates, and Seminole Valley parks." The Monarch Research Project is petitioning landowners to ditch grass for flowers! They hope to see 10% of lawn transformed into blossoming pollinator habitats.
Who can resist! Let's get planting. Our future relies on it.
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/ Phil Roeder/Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge