Populations of pollinating insects worldwide have been in steady decline over the past several decades threatening both the global food supply and local ecosystems. Now, Suffolk is hoping to reverse this trend by creating a task force that will develop strategies to support local pollinators on Suffolk’s more than sixty thousand acres of property.
Through legislation sponsored by Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn and approved unanimously yesterday, the County will put together an advisory group comprised of County agencies, horticulturists and environmentalists. This group will develop a plan to support local pollinators on County land by planting productive, indigenous plants, further reducing the application of pesticides and coordinating with nearby property owners to do the same. The task force’s recommendations are due back to officials within one year of the commission’s creation and will be required to include information on the economic and environmental impacts of the proposed pollinator plan and identify potential partnership for the maintenance of pollinator-friendly planted areas. It will then be up to lawmakers to decide if the plan developed should be implemented through subsequent legislation.
“Pollinators are critical to our ecosystem. These creatures are inextricably linked, not only with every home flower garden, but also with the success of our region’s over a quarter of a billion dollar per year agricultural industry,” said Deputy Presiding Officer Hahn. “It is often said that ‘without pollinators, we don’t eat’ so this is one issue we can’t ignore.”
Pollinators like bees, butterflies and even bats, are integral to flowering plants’ fertilization process and are necessary for the propagation of most fruits we consume and for seed production of vegetables. However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, “During the past 30-plus years, our nation’s pollinator populations have suffered serious losses due to invasive pests and diseases, such as mites and viral and fungal pathogens, exposure to pesticides and other chemicals, loss of habitat, loss of species and genetic diversity, and changing climate.”
“We hope to create a web of pathways across county properties and neighboring lands,” Hahn continued. “Many pollinators can’t fly very long distances, so they need safe places to rest and refuel as they travel. Creating a patchwork of “rest stops” along a “migratory highway” allows pollinators to survive and increases local biodiversity.”
“The steep decline in both birds and insects is a concern to us all, as many of these species serve as vital pollinators that help maintain a healthy and functioning ecosystem. This legislation would directly address one of the main threats to these pollinators, habitat loss,” says Brooke Bateman, Ph.D., ecologist at the National Audubon Society and board member of Four Harbors Audubon Society. “By establishing pollinator friendly management practices for County properties we are taking the right steps towards providing key habitat for our wildlife in peril. At the same time, many of these practices provide co-benefits such as cost savings and reduced runoff into our waterways.”
Robert Carpenter, Administrative Director of the Long Island Farm Bureau agreed, “Habitats for pollinator species are an import part of Long Island’s ecology. Pollinators provide a vital function in agriculture for fruit and vegetable production and are necessary worldwide in helping to feed our citizens. Planting habitat for pollinators where appropriate including Suffolk County lands and in our own personal residential yards will provide the food resources and habitat for growth and proliferation of these important partners.”
The bill now goes to County Executive Steve Bellone for his signature within the next 15 days.
“A quiet crisis is occurring throughout the world as the number and diversity of insects that provide vital pollinating services decline. This legislation is one way Suffolk County is appropriately responding to the crisis-by developing a blueprint for making the county suitable for butterflies, bees, and other critically important but often overlooked species”, notes John Turner, Conservation Policy Advocate for the Seatuck Environmental Association. “Kudos to the County and County Legislator Hahn for responding to this issue.”
Photo: "Common Bluebottle butterfly" by Aardwolf6886