Infrastructure bill stimulates bees and butterflies

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“Wildflower Highway” by Cycrolu is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

While it may not have made the headlines, tucked away in the over 2,000 pages of the $ 1T bipartite infrastructure bill President Biden enacted two programs last week that will boost bee and butterfly populations in all 50 states.

The first is a five-year program that will provide $ 10 million in subsidies to benefit pollinators on roadsides and rights-of-way, the language of which comes from the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act of Sen. Jeff Merkley and Congressman Jimmy Panetta. Eligible projects include the planting of native plants – which provide pollen and nectar for wild pollinators – as well as the costs of switching to pollinator-friendly practices, such as reduced mowing, especially during key times of the season. migration of the monarch.

Most importantly, the $ 250 million that will be distributed to states over the next five years for the removal of invasive plants along roads, highways, railroads and other transportation routes. While not primarily focused on pollinators, the program prioritizes projects that will revegetate areas with native pollinator-friendly species when the invasive plants are uprooted. It also provides a larger share of the federal funds for these bee-stimulating projects, improving the chances that you will see lupine or wild columbine instead of kudzu or Japanese knotweed the next time you go in. car.

For the currently plummeting bee and butterfly populations, the programs are much needed good news. Along with toxic pesticides, habitat loss from sprawl and invasive species is a major driver of catastrophic pollinator losses. For migratory species, like monarch butterflies, the news is especially good as the distribution of habitat projects across our country’s vast transportation network makes them more likely to find a suitable place to sleep and eat on their long journeys. – couriers.

Beyond pollinators, the two programs have one thing in common: they are smart investments. Studies show that, although a little more expensive initially, pro-pollinator management of roadside with native plants and simple changes in mowing save state transportation departments a lot of money. money in long-term maintenance costs. The fact that federal funds can be spent on training and education on these practices will ensure that those dollars go even further – as they say, if you teach a human to fish (bad species, but you get the idea).

The off-road benefits will also be felt. Native plants surpass barren (and often chemically treated) sod roadsides to store carbon. And with any luck, farmers might see a boost as well. Recent research shows that many crops, such as apples, blueberries and cherries, have lower yields due to the lack of bees and other pollinator species. Often, the decline in harvests is due to a lack of wild bees, driven from agricultural fields by habitat loss and the increase in toxic chemicals like neonicotinoids. Providing refuge for these small but mighty helpers spread across America’s farmland can also improve farmers’ fortunes (for example, see how wild bees increased watermelon production in a recent Purdue study).

The NRDC fought alongside partners and champions like Senator Merkley and Congressman Panetta to keep these agendas in the final bill. Overall, they report gains all around for bees, butterflies, birds and the bottom line when it comes to maintaining our transportation network. I could also add “beauty” to the list – you have to admit, they are pretty.

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