Three state agencies announce partnership to arrest alarming decline of pollinator species


Three state agencies announce partnership to arrest alarming decline of pollinator species

TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

The Tennessee Department of Transportation this week announced a new partnership with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to create pollinator meadows and expand a program to place beehives in state parks.

The announcement coincides with National Pollinator Week, which focuses awareness on the decline of species that support support agriculture.

The partnership will feature plantings of pollinator meadows in nine state parks – Pickwick Landing, Paris Landing, Big Hill Pond, Montgomery Bell, Seven Islands, Henry Horton, Reelfoot Lake, Sycamore Shoals, and Warriors Path. In addition to the meadows, the partnership will include interpretive signage at each park to increase the visiting public’s awareness and education.

Many of the Tennessee State Parks receiving a meadow planting and signage are participants in TDEC’s “Honey Project,” which places bee hives in state parks. Each hive is cared for in conjunction with the Agriculture Department and has honey harvested annually. Six state parks participated in the project in 2018, its first year, and 18 parks are currently part of the program.

“This partnership is a response to the serious threat to pollinators, and how we as state agencies can work together to create an impactful program,” TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright said.

“Supporting pollinators is important to the state’s environmental and agricultural health,” TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said. “These meadows will offer many benefits to our state parks – from filtering storm water to enhancing the beautiful scenery – while also eventually providing our visitors with local honey.”

“Tennessee farmers and foresters provide food, shelter, and clothing for each of us, and they rely on healthy pollinators,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “We are proud to be a part of this partnership, and we appreciate TDOT and TDEC’s extensive work for this initiative.”

The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Beautification Division is providing funding for the plantings. Funding will go toward seeds, herbicides, machinery and other items to support plantings. Work is set to begin in the spring of 2020. Tennessee Department of Agriculture State Apiarist Mike Studer is providing technical guidance.

Pollinators are a diverse group of species, including birds, bees, butterflies, bats and beetles. They are critically important to life, and pollinate one-third of the food we eat. Their numbers are in steady decline as a result of loss of habitat, pests and pathogens, exposure to pesticides and other stressors. In response, pollinator-friendly language is included in the nation’s current transportation funding law, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (Pub. L. 114-94).

TDOT is doing its part to meet these challenges by decreasing rural interstate mowing and adjusting the mixes of herbicides applied to the 13,807 miles of state-maintained roadway rights-of-way. Additionally, rights-of-way are being inventoried for pollinator-friendly vegetation and a new pollinator meadow is being planted at the I-65 Welcome Center in Ardmore (Giles County). For more information about TDOT’s Pollinator Habitat Program, visit: www.tn.gov/tdot/environmental-home/environmental-highway-beautification-office/beautification-pollinator-habitat-program.

National Pollinator Week is a nationwide celebration and awareness effort that calls attention to the steps everyone can take to protect and restore pollinator populations. More information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can be found at https://www.fws.gov/pollinators/.

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