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Washington County develops policy to promote pollination

Washington County officials are looking at what can be done to help replenish the pollinator population in the county.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners has directed staff to write up a resolution stating the efforts the county is already making on increasing the pollinator population, and what can be done in the future.

It's one more step the county is taking on a subject that is creating a buzz around the state.

Pollinators are the bees, butterflies and moths—there's about 400 species of bees in Minnesota, according to Washington County Natural Resources Director Dan MacSwain—that are responsible for transferring pollen from the male to female reproductive organs of seed plants.

"We depend upon them for pollinating our agricultural land, that provides us our food," MacSwain said.

But in recent years, the pollinator population has been in decline. Around Washington County, some of that is due to development taking up land that had once been fertile cropland, or from invasive species like buckthorn and noxious weeds overtaking land where pollinator-friendly species once grew.

Nationwide, the monarch butterfly colonies have been in decline since 1996-97, with the lowest number of colonies reported in 2013-14.

To do its part, Washington County has already implemented a few measures to help build up the pollinator numbers again, MacSwain said. Seven different types of milkweed—a staple for pollinators—have been identified around the county. As an immediate and easy remedy, MacSwain said the county has already planted hundreds of acres of new milkweed around county parks and other county-owned land. Habitat restoration projects are also under way at several county parks.

Washington County is also promoting pollination in the ditches along county roads. An effort is under way to plant native grasses and plants there, increasing the pollinator-friendly vegetation in the county.

But the Washington County Board of Commissioners wants to take this commitment one step further. In a Feb. 16 workshop, commissioners asked MacSwain to prepare a resolution stating the county's position on promoting pollination efforts.

"This is a big issue for our future generation, and I think it's an opportunity for Washington County to take a lead," District 4 Commissioner Karla Bigham said.

John Kaul, lobbyist for Washington County, said putting the county's work on paper is a good first step. While this year's legislative session is expected to be a short one, Kaul told commissioners he expects Minnesota legislators to start working on the same subject as part of the 2017 session.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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