New York Establishes Pollinator Protection Plan (so what’s your state doing?)

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Kathy Welsh, Hudson Valley News

Gov. Cuomo announced that New York State will establish an interagency taskforce to develop a Pollinator Protection Plan to promote the health and recovery of pollinator populations in New York State. Pollinators – which include various types of bees and butterflies – contribute significantly to the state’s agricultural economy by adding roughly $500 million in pollination services on an annual basis. To address the alarming decline in pollinators that has occurred in recent years, the Governor has directed the Commissioners of the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Department of Environmental Conservation to meet with farmers, research institutions and key industry leaders to develop a roadmap to conserve and grow pollinator populations across the state.

“Pollinators are crucial to the health of New York’s environment, as well as the strength of our agricultural economy,” Governor Cuomo said. “By developing a statewide action plan, we are expanding our efforts to protect these species and our unparalleled natural resources, and making an important step forward in our commitment to New York’s ecological and economic future.”

New York’s ability to produce crops such as apples, cherries, onions, pumpkins and cauliflower relies heavily on the presence of pollinators. According to the Governor’s Office, over the last 50 years, the number of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, bats and butterflies, has dropped significantly. Scientists believe many of these losses are caused by a combination of factors such as poor nutrition, loss of foraging habitat, parasites, pesticides, pathogens, lack of genetic diversity and poor land management practices.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said: “Protecting and preserving pollinator populations across New York is not just beneficial from an environmental and agricultural standpoint, it also contributes to sustaining a healthy economy. I applaud Governor Cuomo’s plan to find out what is causing these steep declines and look forward to helping in the efforts to find meaningful solutions, as it is essential that we protect these species.”

In developing the Pollinator Protection Plan, the taskforce will examine and review a wide range of items, including:

  • forming partnerships with research institutions to expand the collection and sharing of data related to pollinator health issues
  • fostering cross-sector (beekeepers, landowners and pesticide applicators) information sharing and coordinated efforts;
  • developing strategies for a public education and engagement campaign;
  • identify habitat enhancement projects, including foraging opportunities
  • developing best management practices for landowners, state agencies, pesticide applicators and beekeepers;
  • evaluating the effectiveness of New York’s programs, certifications and incentives related to pollinator health; and
  • developing public-private partnerships.

The Pollinator Protection Plan will be developed based on the key findings and agreements achieved by the taskforce and will seek to improve the State’s information on the status of pollinators and identify reasonable measurements to conserve their populations.

Kathryn Boor, Cornell University’s Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said: “On behalf of the Cornell University faculty and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators and staff whose research and expertise focus on these important topics, we appreciate the leadership of New York State in establishing this taskforce. Pollinators underpin agriculture, and their health is essential for successful food systems. We look forward to collaborating closely with the State on these critical issues.”

The plan will build upon New York’s leading effort to promote the health of pollinators, such as a number of measures already adopted that go well beyond federal requirements, including best land management practices that enhance foraging habitats, encourage pollinator friendly planting and use of natural forms of pest management to the maximum extent on state lands. In addition, the current State Budget includes $50,000 to Cornell University for honey bee research as well as $500,000 for Cornell’s Integrated Pest Management Program.

The Department of Agriculture and Markets also employs a State Apiculturist, who oversees apiary inspections of commercial beekeepers throughout the state and coordination of statewide honey bee health monitoring. The State Apiculturist also coordinates participation in the National Honey Bee Survey, which is designed to monitor honey bee health on a national scale. The USDA has provided New York with $12,000 in 2015 for survey related activities.