The great work of safeguarding the planet in this time of climate disruption has to be approached on many levels — individually, collectively and with the full might of government behind the efforts.
That’s why a new venture in Santa Fe is so promising. The city is seeking to be named a Bee City USA affiliate. That means, should the City Council approve, codifying Santa Fe’s approach to promoting healthy habitats for bees, butterflies, beetles, bats — all the pollinators our environment needs to thrive.
For that to happen, individuals and community groups will work together to make Santa Fe a better place for the creatures that pollinate plants, creating healthy ecosystems.
Last week the city’s Quality of Life Committee accepted a resolution — sponsored by Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth — that would designate Santa Fe a Bee City USA affiliate. The effort is being backed by 22 community organizations. The idea is to preserve the habitat that nurtures pollinators, a movement that began in 2012 in Asheville, N.C. Today, some 100 cities across the country, including Albuquerque, are promising to improve conditions for bee populations.
In Santa Fe, the Water Conservation Office would serve as sponsor, coordinating with the 22 partners and assisted by the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary. In addition to preserving habitat, the resolution calls for the group to host an educational event each year, hold a planting session or habitat restoration and maintain a website.
Individuals can participate by finding out what plants attract pollinators and planting them in their yards — and importantly, by ceasing to use herbicides or pesticides that cause harm. The nation and the world have been focused in recent years on the decline of honeybee colonies. But, they aren’t the only pollinator in trouble. Some 19 percent of butterflies are facing extinction, and the western monarch butterfly has seen a 99.4 percent reduction in population since the 1980s.
The U.S. Forest Service estimates that 80 percent of all food and plant products reproduce through pollination assisted by animals. That means it is in our best interests to nurture pollinators, especially if we want to keep eating.
The city isn’t the first local government to step up, either.
Last fall, the Santa Fe County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution “to protect and enhance pollinator species and their habitat throughout Santa Fe County.”
Commissioner Anna Hansen, who introduced the resolution, wanted to demonstrate the county’s determination to help but also encourage individuals to take part. As part of the resolution, county staff has been directed to keep pollinators in mind during strategic planning — everything from using integrated pest management techniques, planting pollinator-friendly landscapes and working with other groups to protect habitat.
Now, with Santa Fe seeking to become a Bee City USA affiliate, the city and county will be pursuing similar goals — supporting efforts that make our region a haven for pollinators. Just think: Planting more native plants on medians and covering the ground more densely could help eliminate the never-ending weed problem, too. This is a project that could have many pleasant consequences for Santa Fe.
The Xerxes Society for Invertebrate Conservation is one of the groups working on pollinator conservation efforts, including presenting educational programs and providing a list of pollinator-friendly plants. It’s just one of many resources available. This spring, individuals can visit local nurseries and take home native plants for their gardens. It’s a wonderful way to beautify homes while helping the planet.
Together, Santa Fe can create a more hospitable environment for the creatures we need to survive as a species. As Romero-Wirth said, “We don’t want to wait. Spring is coming and we want to be ready to dive into this work.”