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ODOT encouraged to help restore pollinator habitat

7/17/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

I encourage the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to read the preliminary report by the USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] of winter losses of honey bees. While it is a preliminary report, honey bees did not fare well in Ohio. The Clinton Global Initiative and the USDA believe one way to improve honey bee health is by increasing the bees’ food supply. Forage: the pollen and nectar from flowers, trees, weeds, shrubs and crops all provide food for honey bees and native pollinators. The loss of milkweed habitat for monarch butterflies alone is staggering with the loss of 6,000 acres per day according to Monarchwatch.org.

While the USDA has committed funds to support farmers who preserve natural habitat for pollinators, healthy habitat can only be restored if it is pesticide free. Systemic pesticides and herbicides and fungicides have half-lives that can continue to affect the nectar and pollen of the next crop, or weed, or flower grown on the land.

States are realizing the cost savings and environmental benefit of pollinator forage along roadsides. State funds are saved by not having grass to mow; reduced mowing equals reduced carbon emissions. Habitat for pollinators and songbirds is restored, and the roadways are areas of floral beauty once again.

The loss of pollinator habitat is one of the health issues putting pollinators at risk. ODOT should not accept a chemical treatment to “limit the growth of grass and weeds.” ODOT should be a leader in Integrated Vegetative Management, showing the way in roadside planting of pesticide-free pollinator habitat. As the state goes, so will counties, cities and corporations working together for a healthy community landscape for all.

Michele Colopy, West Akron, program director, Pollinator Stewardship Council Inc., Perkinston, Mississippi

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