Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Catch-On in Nashville?

One day after publication of my letter to the editor of Memphis’ The Commercial Appeal, I have heard a number of comments about my suggestion that we consider a highway right-of-way management plan involving plantings of native wildflowers and grasses. The comments have been thoughtful and supportive. The purpose of the change from mowing roadside grasses to tending meadows is to support honey bees and native pollinators by providing forage, habitat, and nesting areas. Issues brought up include motorists’ safety, the value of increasing plant and pollinator diversity, the benefit to pollinators by increasing forage and nesting places, mowing cost reductions, herbicide and pesticide reductions, invasive species control, prevention of soil erosion, and landscape beautification. One gracious writer said, “That makes perfect sense from a naturalist’s point of view; the energy savings from a conservationist’s point of view; the dollar savings from an economist’s point of view; the carbon savings from the environmentalist’s point of view and the tax savings from the taxpayer’s point of view. Don’t expect it to catch on in Nashville.” Sure, changes in public policy and procedure don’t come about easily. However, I do believe that there is growing interest in the need to protect the pollinators, increase biodiversity, conserve our resources, and protect the environment. Pollinator plantings are being employed in a number of states. The environmental and management concepts are well developed, and successful pollinator plantings are established. We should see more pollinator pastures along the highways; and, eventually, they will be connected into corridors connecting diverse habitats.

Today’s photo shows small red wasps pollinating wildflowers in Colorado. On a recent visit, I found abundant, diverse wildflowers along the roadsides. The blooms attracted many species of wasps and solitary bees. I found no honey bees at this high altitude. I thank all who have entered into the discussion of how we can help our bees and native pollinators. Eventually, pollinator corridors will catch on in Nashville.

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