The bees might finally stand a chance now.
An often-ignored fact about bees is that their population is dwindling rapidly and their existence is necessary for many aspects of life, especially in aiding food crops and natural habitats. One state in the U.S. whose crops depend on bees, yet continuously uses harmful pesticides that deters and kills bees, is Iowa. Iowa produces much of the world’s corn and also produces tons of soybeans, but little is being done to salvage the bee population in the area.
Cedar Rapids, a small town in Iowa with a population of 130,000, has decided to change the state’s approach, or lack thereof, to saving bees by dedicating 1,000 acres to rehabilitating the population. Starting this spring, the town will seed 188 acres of prairie land with native plants, grasses, and wildflowers in order to encourage bees to thrive there.
The plan, which is called the 1,000 Acres Pollinator Initiative, is to eventually seed 1,000 acres of unused public land for this specific use, which will also benefit butterflies and other populations of wild animals and insects.
“With the agricultural boom around 100 years ago, about 99.9 percent of all the native habitat of Iowa has been lost,” said Cedar Rapids Park Superintendent Daniel Gibbins, who is spearheading the project. “When you convert it back to what was originally native Iowa, you’re going to help a lot more than just native pollinators. You’re helping birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals—everything that’s native here relies on native vegetation.”
The crisis facing pollinator bees is a combination of factors that are mostly caused by humans. Habitat loss, climate change, and pesticide-use all contribute greatly to their decline and yet humans continue to deny that some of these problems even exist. While agriculture continues to grow and threaten the bees we need to survive, their numbers and health are quickly decreasing.
What’s great about this project is that the land will go undisrupted by humans, so the areas will be free from pesticides and not for development. The project initially began in collaboration with the Monarch Research Project, which aims to boost the population of monarch butterflies, whose pollination skills we depend on as well.
The 1,000 acres will be spread out in the county and spaces that are going to be converted into conservation areas include golf courses, right-of-ways, and patches of land on parks. Volunteers are approaching private citizens to get them on board to designate patches of their land as well. Their aim is to convert 10% of mowed turf on private lands into a conservation habitat.
“We need to get away from grooming every acre and change people’s mindset as to what is beautiful,” said Clark McLeod with the Monarch Research Project.
So far, about 400 acres have been designated and the people behind the project are excited about this progress. There’s even talk of extending the project to cover 10,000 acres across the county. While the initial 1,000 acres is set to be covered in the first 5 years, this initiative could easily extend into a decade-long project.
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