Conservation Efforts Provide a Win-Win for Natural Resources and Pollinators

FY14 STC Office Picture - Jane HardistyIt’s finally summer and the sounds of nature are in full force. Waking up to birds chirping and listening to butterflies flapping and bees buzzing while enjoying the patio is something we’ve all been looking forward to since winter.  But these animals are bringing more than just music to our ears – they’re also bringing food.

It’s estimated that about three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators to reproduce. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, birds and bats, and beetles and other insects.

Unfortunately, pollinators are faced with many challenges in today’s modern world and we have seen a significant decline in these crucial species over the past several years. Habitat loss, disease, parasites, and environmental contaminants have all contributed to the decline of many species of pollinators.

One species in particular, the Monarch butterfly, has decreased from more than 1 billion in 1995 to about 34 million today. Scientists attribute the decline of monarchs to the decrease in native plants like milkweed.  Evidence of population declines has prompted scientists and conservationists, alike, to encourage changes in ecosystem management. These once-common butterflies are growing less familiar and private lands will continue to play a crucial role in aiding the recovery of this species that serves as an indicator of ecosystem health.

USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is just one of many agencies encouraging change by investing dollars in a 10-state targeted conservation effort to give owners and managers of private lands the tools they need to create and enhance habitat for monarch butterflies. With assistance from NRCS, producers and conservation partners can increase critical populations of milkweed and nectar-rich plants by establishing them along field borders, in buffers along waterways or around wetlands, in pastures and other suitable locations.  And we know when landowners improve habitat for monarchs, they are also providing food and habitat for other essential pollinators, reducing erosion, increasing soil health, and inhibiting the expansion of invasive species.

June 20-26 is National Pollinator week. As we celebrate pollinators throughout this week, I want to thank Indiana’s farm families for all you do to care for the land, improve the environment, and provide us safe and affordable food and fiber.  I look forward to continuing to work together to provide better habitat for our pollinator friends!

You are invited to learn more about the Natural Resources Conservation Service, conservation practices and pollinators. Stop by and talk with your District Conservationist or visit our website www.in.nrcs.usda.gov.  To locate the office nearest you, visit: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/contact/local/.

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