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From White House to Texas, a Growing Buzz Around Pollinator Protection
When you’re in your garden collecting milkweed seed pods on a windy fall afternoon, you may not realize you’re part of a burgeoning nationwide effort to protect America’s pollinators. As someone who’s seen firsthand how local, state and federal agencies are coming together in a landmark mobilization to save species like monarch butterflies and native bees, I can tell you that your efforts are making a huge difference and the best is yet to come.
I recently joined representatives from across the country at the White House to talk about the importance of pollinator habitat, a campaign inspired by President Obama’s 2014 Presidential Memorandum on Pollinator Health and continued with the administration’s National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.
In June, the effort broadened again as the National Wildlife Federation, along with American Public Gardens, Pollinator Partnership, National Gardening Association, AmericanHort, American Seed Trade Association, the National Garden Bureau and 30 additional organizations and federal agencies have come together as the National Pollinator Garden Network to launch the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.
“The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge is an inspiring and beautiful step to create one million beacons of hope. The challenge goes a long way to meeting the need for increased habitat,” said John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. “I urge you to think big to educate citizens and encourage them to share habitat efforts.”
The meeting was just part of an emerging national realization that we can’t save bees and butterflies by taking a piecemeal approach. This is not just a problem for gardeners and scientists – it’s an American challenge.
These are the creatures we depend on in so many different ways – not just to put food on our tables by pollinating our crops, but to nourish our souls by bringing beauty to our backyards and community spaces.
Texas, a critical link in the migration chain for monarch butterflies, is taking this challenge seriously. Monarchs from both the East Coast and Midwest funnel through Texas going to and from their wintering grounds in Mexico. I recently joined former First Lady Laura Bush and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Executive Director Dan Ashe in Dallas to kick off a multi-agency monarch conservation plan there. We also saw new progress at the federal level last week, when the transportation bill passed by Congress included provisions to create of pollinator habitat in transportation rights of ways.
We’re aligning the key thought leaders and what’s needed next is to take this initiative to scale. Our goal is a million pollinator gardens, but we’re not content to stop there. We need all 330 million Americans to do their part to make sure pollinator populations don’t decline on our watch.