Pollinating the Conversation to Conserve Iowa's Pollinators
It's no secret that pollinators are struggling; bees and monarch butterflies have made headlines as loss of habitat and plant diversity, colony collapse disorder, improper use of pesticides, parasites, and a multitude of other factors have led to drastic population declines. Many are unaware of the importance of these "bugs," not only environmentally, but economically. Honeybees pollinate almost 90 percent of the world's crops, adding approximately $15 billion to agricultural crop value per year; without pollinators our daily diets would be reduced by one-third.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service) Rock Island Field Office is leading the discussion and strategic planning effort in Iowa. To engage multiple interest groups, the Rock Island Field Office hosted the inaugural Quad Cities Pollinator Conference in June 2015. With almost 270 attendees, the conference included an impressive line-up of 24 locally, nationally, and world-renowned speakers. Speakers included researchers, beekeepers, gardeners, seed companies, producers, transportation agencies from both Illinois and Iowa, and municipalities. A deliberate decision was made to invite all parties with a stake in pollinator decline, bringing all sides to the table to engage in discussion and resulting in a conference with speakers and attendees from conservation groups and chemical companies, to master gardeners and farmers. Planning has already begun for next year's conference which will feature speakers providing an educational "how-to" as a roadmap for residential, rural, and municipal attendees to create pollinator habitat on the landscape.
Hosting this inaugural conference is only one facet of Rock Island Field Office's approach to pollinator conservation in Iowa. Another facet is the planned and coordinated management of rights-of-way. In Iowa, between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, thousands of acres of roadsides and rights-of-way are managed by the Iowa Department of Transportation or other secondary road departments and county conservation boards. The Service engaged Iowa Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration in conversations about strategic mitigation and roadside management to ensure that the I-35 corridor and other rights-of-way acres are managed to benefit monarch butterflies and other pollinators. These collaborative relationships in combination with the Best Management Practices being developed and tailored to eco-regions, will result in restoring native grasslands and other habitats along rights-of-way throughout the Hawkeye State.
The Service is also engaging at the county level for pollinator conservation. Scott County invited the Rock Island Field Office to participate on a task force that is working to formalize a plan for roadside maintenance. The Service, along with road managers and other interested parties, are preparing a plan for the Board of Supervisors. The plan will provide direction on managing roadsides using a variety of techniques within the context of ecological principles to establish diverse stands of native vegetation growing along 1,100 miles of secondary roads in Scott County.
In addition to the exciting work on managing rights-of way throughout Iowa, the Service is a lead partner in the newly formed Iowa Monarch Consortium. Building on the momentum of the Quad Cities Pollinator Conference, the Service's participation in the Iowa Monarch Consortium provides an opportunity to engage academic and agricultural partners in cooperative planning for pollinator conservation. Partners in the consortium are designing a conservation approach that can be carried out on millions of acres of privately owned farm lands in Iowa. Consortium members will identify small, practical, yet strategic actions for sustainable and compatible agricultural practices that will lead to increased pollinator habitat and populations.
The Service and its Rock Island Field Office are committed to improving pollinator habitat in Iowa and engaging partners in conversations that build awareness and result in practical solutions. In a predominately agricultural state, the Service is meeting the challenge of pollinator conservation by hosting conferences to bring all interests together, improving grassland habitats on thousands of acres by working with transportation partners and through the Partners for Wildlife Program, identifying pollinator compatible farming practices, and working with prominent academic specialists at Iowa State University through the Iowa Monarch Consortium. We're confident of a bright future for butterflies, bees, and the people of Iowa.
Wildlife and Habitat Conservation
- Conservation Planning