Bee on a rose

Pollinator habitats have been on a national decline for a number of reason, directly impacting the population of bees and butterflies throughout the country. Owatonna City Council passed a resolution Tuesday night to designate the city as Pollinator Friendly and promote pollinator habitats. (Euan Kerr/MPR News 2016)

OWATONNA — The citizens of Owatonna can “bee” proud of their community as the city has been officially designated as Pollinator Friendly.

During Tuesday night’s Owatonna City Council regular meeting, the council members unanimously passed the resolution to protect pollinators which includes, but not limited to, bees and butterflies. The action makes Owatonna that 40th city in Minnesota to have passed a pollinator resolution.

Pollinator habitat has declined for many reasons, including urban development and more intensive agriculture that focuses on corn and soybean production. This means fewer areas with flowering plants to provide the food bees and butterflies need to survive.

Earlier this week, a new study from the University of Missouri put Minnesota among leaders in the nation who are addressing concerns about bee and butterfly populations. Listed alongside Minnesota were California, Connecticut, and Vermont.

Willa Childress, an organizer for Pesticide Action Network that lobbies in St. Paul, said that Minnesota has been “doing more than pretty much any other state” for pollinators in recent years.

In 2016, then-Gov. Mark Dayton established a committee to oversee pollinator protections and advise his administration on pollinator policy. The pollinator task force recommended, among other things, reducing neonicotinoid use and expanding habitat programs. Several bills related to pollinators have been introduced this year to the state legislature. Childress said that the word done in the committee has created relationships between farmers, beekeepers, and environmental groups that have kept the momentum going in the legislature.

The topic was originally discussed with the Owatonna City Council in January during a study session with a presentation from University of Minnesota Extension educator Claire LaCanne. During the presentation, LaCanne discussed the importance of supporting pollinators and their natural habitats with native pollinator friendly plants throughout the city.

“We had received a request from the public to consider naming the city as pollinator friendly,” said City Administrator Kris Busse. “We had the study session, staff reviewed it, we talked about it during the study session and it was decided that we wanted to move forward.”

In the resolution, it stated that the city would continue to make efforts in providing and maintaining vegetation on city property in a fiscally responsible manner that considers the health of people, plants, and pollinators. It also reads that the city shall limit the use of systemic pesticides such as neonicotinoids, which may negatively affect pollinators.

Moving forward, the city will select plants that are favorable to pollinators for future planting on city property. Native plants the grow in the region will be the priority for future planting, specifically those that have not been genetically engineered to have herbicides or pesticides in their DNA.

With the passing of the resolution, the city also agrees to “strive to convert actively managed non-native or degraded landscaped areas to native habitats that include pollinator-friendly plants.”

There will be no budget impact with the passing of the resolution.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 444-2378 or Follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie.

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