Tennessee Pollinator Habitat Assistance

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 | 8:19am

Tennessee Pollinator Habitat Assistance Is Available

NASHVILLE --- The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency desires to emphasize the availability of assistance to landowners and agricultural producers to create and enhance pollinator habitat already existing in conservation programs as increasing attention is being given to the plight of pollinators.

Pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and bats are credited for providing one of every three bites of food eaten in the world, as they facilitate the reproduction of 90 percent of the world’s flowering plants. Bees are the most important single group of pollinators in North America. Habitat loss and excessive use of insecticides are the biggest contributors to pollinator declines.

One way to help restore and improve habitat for pollinators is by using a variety of native flowering plants, shrubs and trees in landscaping, agricultural and conservation plantings.  These plants can either be seeded directly or may be established from seeds existing in the natural soil bank if proper techniques are used.  Both large blocks and strips of pollinator plants as well as smaller backyard plantings can help. Many of the plants people often view as “weeds” produce attractive flowers that are important to pollinators, as well as many fruit and berry-producing shrubs and trees planted for food for wildlife and humans.

Many U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other state and federal conservation programs offer technical and financial assistance to restore pollinator habitat. Current opportunities exist in USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practices such as CP42-Pollinator Habitat and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  Native pollinator habitats also benefit many other wildlife species such as bobwhite quail, wild turkey and many other songbirds.  Other CRP practices including CP4D-Permanent Wildlife Habitat, CP29-Marginal Pastureland Wildlife Habitat Buffers, CP33-Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds, and CP38E-SAFE Bobwhite Habitat utilize diverse native grass and wildflower plantings that provide benefits to pollinators as well as other targeted wildlife.

Technical assistance on establishing and managing larger plots of vegetation (bigger than “backyard”) for pollinators is provided by the TWRA, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Quail Forever wildlife habitat biologists.  They can also help guide you to financial assistance available in conservation programs.  To find your local biologists and their contact information, visit www.TWRAprivatelands.org or call your local USDA service center or TWRA regional office.

On May 19, 2015, the White House released the “National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.” The 58-page document devised by the Pollinator Health Task Force identifies three main goals: reducing honey bee colony losses, increasing the Eastern population of the monarch butterfly, and restoring or enhancing 7 million acres for pollinators over the next five years.

Information about pollinators and their habitats, including garden plantings, can be found at www.nrcs.usda.gov/pollinators and also through the Xerces Society (www.xerces.org) and the Pollinator Partnership (www.pollinator.org).