This commentary is by Philip Coleman of South Burlington, a retired chemistry teacher and poet.
One of Vermont’s many strengths is its scale, which gives us the advantage to preserve and care for our large number of plants and animals.
This care, from both experts and ordinary people, continues to foster the incredible biodiversity we have here. In 1997, the first conservation license plates were issued, depicting the peregrine falcon, at the time an endangered species in the state. Not only did the plaque raise $1.5 million for the Non-Game Wildlife Fund and the Watershed Grants Program, but it served as a reminder that Vermont cares about its own.
Since then, thanks to restocking, the number of falcon breeding pairs has increased from three in 1985 to more than 50 today.
The last time conservation plaques were added by the Department of Transport was in 2014, when three – depicting a white-tailed deer, a rainbow trout and a loon – were released. To continue supporting our wildlife here, it’s high time we recognized a smaller but very important creature with its own conservation license plate. In many ways, this animal supports the flourishing of much of our wildlife and our particular state.
Agriculture, as well as wildlife, depends on pollination – to produce our food and to sustain our forests, fields and grasslands. Vermont depends on its pollinators for its fine honey, but also on apples and cherries and other fruit trees, pumpkins and blueberries, alfalfa, clover, vetch, milkweed and a host of native flowers.
Bees are the heaviest, but Vermont is home to 275 species of bees that pollinate many smaller plants.
Yet, for all their importance, pollinators are in danger. Due to pesticides, disease and climate stress, bee populations and bee diversity are dropping precipitously. Of our 17 bumblebee species, one has disappeared from Vermont and three others are threatened. It is only through the good work of organizations such as the Xerces Society and, locally, the Bee the Change Project – aimed at bringing pollinator-friendly plantings to every town in Vermont – that the fate of these crucial insects has been resolved. recognized and highlighted.
And so, I urge our legislators to call for a new Vermont Conservation License Plate – featuring the Eastern Bumblebee, Bombus impatiens.
Why bumblebee? First of all, although Vermont named its state insect the honeybee, 15 other states have it too, and uniqueness is a hallmark of Vermont.
Second, the bumblebee would be the “poster child” for the 275 species of our wild bees.
Third, Bernd Heinrich, professor emeritus at UVM, was one of the very first scientists in the country to discover the physiology and socialization of the bumblebee.
And fourth, almost everyone loves bumblebees!
Let’s honor and support our hardworking Vermont bees!