NPR shared news about Lawns to Legumes, a program that helps Minnesotans turn their lawns into pollinator-friendly habitats with food and shelter for bees and other insects. The article is available here.
Here’s more details about the new program that were sent to me by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources:
“We are excited to provide additional details about the new Lawns to Legumes Program that is focused on establishing pollinator habitat on residential landscapes, with an emphasis on supporting the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. There has been significant public interest in this program. Many people have expressed interest in receiving cost-share funding, while others have been seeking technical information to help them get started on projects right away. To meet the diverse needs of residents, we are working to provide cost-share as well as technical assistance/coaching, technical resources, and workshops.
This program has been designed to involve as many local governments and conservation groups as possible to build on the public interest/momentum and ultimately increase awareness for residential pollinator habitat across the state. There are opportunities for partners to be involved in demonstration neighborhoods, landowner coaching, conducting workshops, and partnering on outreach and technical resources about establishing urban pollinator habitat. We are also working on a potential model landscaping permit for cities. The information below provides more detail about this developing program.
Lawns to Legumes will have three primary components (also see attached diagram):
1) The establishment of “demonstration neighborhoods”
2) Individual support involving cost-share, coaching, and workshops
3) A public education collaborative to raise awareness about pollinator habitat
1) A competitive RFP for local partners to build targeted “demonstration neighborhoods” with landowners. Eligible applicants could include cities, counties, watershed districts, conservation districts, and more. They will provide technical and financial assistance to around 300 landowners to establish successful and resilient plantings that build pollinator pathways and provide high quality habitat for at-risk pollinators.
2) Individual landowner support coordinated by Blue Thumb Partnership that will include two pieces: A) native plant/pollinator lawn cost-share funding and coaching and/or B) workshops, cost-share and coaching. Cost-share and/or guidance will be provided to 700-1200 landowners as well as project recognition through signage. The goals of this component are to establish successful projects that will provide high value to at-risk pollinators while increasing neighborhood support for the establishment of pollinator habitat. As part of this component, a new residential pollinator guide and planting templates will soon be posted to the program website.
3) A public education collaborative coordinated by BWSR, the Blue Thumb Partnership and other conservation, local government and education partners, to provide impactful outreach to sustain and increase momentum for the adoption of residential pollinator habitat and alternative groundcovers across Minnesota. This component will encourage and assist landowners who want to conduct projects on their own through outreach, technical information and guidance (involving over 5,000 landowners). BWSR will be working on social networking messages that can be shared across organizations.
The program will be informally launched at the State Fair, and workshops for landowners are planned to start in September. The RFP for the Demonstration Neighborhoods will likely be released at the end of December. Cost-share and coaching will also likely start this winter. We are planning to have landowners start registering in mid-December and keep the registration open through January. This will provide time for project planning in the winter and planting in the spring. Please note that dates are approximate at this stage of program planning.
We realize that many of you are hearing from landowners about interest in the program. We have been developing an email distribution list for the program so feel free to send me any landowner lists (names and emails) that you have. Landowners can also sign up on the list directly from the Lawns to Legumes webpage.
Other Q&A about the program:
Why is pollinator protection important?
Worldwide declines in insect populations that provide the foundation for our food systems and ecosystems has been highlighted in the news over the last year. Pollinators are a group of insects that play a key role through their pollination of many food crops such as apples, blueberries and raspberries (75% of food crops), but also sustain populations of native plants through pollination, supporting our ecosystems.
Why the name “Lawns to Legumes”?
The name originated early in the legislation process and reflects interest from the public in investigating alternatives to traditional lawns as well as providing pollinator habitat. Legumes is a term for plants in the pea family that include plants that are commonly found in lawns such as white clover as well as many of our native plants including purple prairie clover, white prairie clover and partridge pea.
Why is the Rusty Patch Bumble Bee declining?
Combination of pesticides, pathogens (such as viruses), habitat loss and lack of nutrition for pollinators has been shown to be having the biggest influence on pollinator populations. The largest remaining populations of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee are in urban areas including Mankato and the Twin Cities, so it is believed that a primary cause of its declines is due to habitat loss in rural landscapes. The USFWS has identified a priority area forthe species and this are will receive attention through this program.
Why residential landscapes?
Research has shown that even relatively small plantings can help create a matrix that is highly valuable to pollinators, and also help build important habitat corridors (Monarch Highway, pollinator pathways). Residential landscapes may also provide opportunities for a higher diversity of plants than may be found in many of our less managed landscapes. There are also many residential landowners who seem motivated to make a difference.
What are some of the most important species for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee?
Wild bergamot, giant hyssop, columbine, asters, goldenrods, penstemon, mints, and currants.”
If you’d like to learn more about the program and how you can support pollinators, please visit the Lawns to Legumes website. More information will follow as details become clear.