CATCH THE BUZZ – Pollinator Advocate Award

The American Bee Project Makes Land Available

by Jamie Johansen, AgWired

The Pollinator Advocate Award, given each year by the Pollinator Partnership and NAPCC, recognizes individuals who have contributed significantly to pollinator protection, conservation, and issue outreach resulting in increased awareness of the importance of pollinators and pollination. The 2014 Pollinator Advocate of the United States Award will be given to Julie Zahniser and The American Bee Project of Ft. Pierce, FL.

Honey bees require proper nutrition gained through a diverse and abundant diet of mixed flowers and crops to be healthy – and they need this sort of food throughout the year. When bees aren’t in pollination contracts beekeepers need to place them in areas of ample, clean (pesticide and chemical-free) forage. Unfortunately these areas are dwindling, and when they are available, they aren’t always available to beekeepers. As with native and wild bees, a lack of habitat is the leading factor impacting the health and viability of honey bees.

The American Bee Project works to solve this problem. Founded by Ft. Pierce, Florida lawyer Julie Zahniser, The American Bee Project seeks legal and legislative ways to increase the habitat that is available to bees. In Florida, where The American Bee Project was born, landowners that lease their land to cattle ranchers, citrus growers and tree farmers see significant tax benefits. Landowners that lease their land to beekeepers, however, didn’t used to see these same benefits, putting bee forage as a second, third, or even last choice in land use decisions. But The American Bee Project is successfully changing that.

Starting in her home state and moving outward, Zahniser is using existing agricultural and tax frameworks to increase feeding opportunities for bees. With uniform standards for agricultural designation in place around the country it will be easier to qualify bees as an agricultural use for the full amount of forage land used by the bees to produce honey and rebuild bee colonies. This is the ultimate goal, one bee yard at a time.

In addition to working the paper trail of local and someday national agricultural laws, the American Bee Project participates in outreach and awareness campaigns that encourage local beekeeping, sustainable agriculture, and advocacy for bee health. As a for-profit service The American Bee Project redirects funds into philanthropic programs that benefit honey bees. This holistic approach using policy and programs, supporting outreach and education, and providing financial support for pollinator conservation efforts, has gained Julie Zahniser and The American Bee Project recognition as the 2014 Pollinator Advocate of the United States.