D’s support bees

Portland Business Journal – June 29, 2007

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, and Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida have introduced a bill to make pollinator conservation an overarching priority in conservation programs administered through the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Pollinator Habitat Protection Act of 2007 comes in the wake of a spate of mysterious European honeybee colony collapses occurring around the country. In Oregon, honeybees are key for pollinating the state’s plentiful tree fruit crops, including pears, apples and cherries. Beyond recent collapses of European honeybee populations, the National Academies of Science in October 2006 released a report that warned of declining populations of multiple varieties of pollinators, including birds, bats, bees and other insects.

The Pollinator Protection Act of 2007 aims to improve habitat and food sources for pollinators. The bill utilizes existing conservation programs to strengthen both native and managed pollinator habitat. It also requires existing conservation programs to acknowledge pollinator habitat as a conservation target and rewards producers whose conservation practices are beneficial for pollinators.

“By increasing pollinator habitat on the land, this bill supports a diversity of native and managed pollinators,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Portland-based Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “It will improve crop security and the sustainability of agriculture, by helping farmers in the United States diversify their pollinator portfolio.”

The bill also makes it a priority for Plant Material Centers managed by the Natural Resource Conservation Service to emphasize native plantings that benefit pollinators, and for the USDA to make nurseries and land managers more aware of these same plants.

The House Pollinator Protection Act of 2007 is a companion bill to several others introduced in recent weeks that make native and managed pollinators a target for research and habitat conservation.

An official explanation for recent colony collapses has not been released but experts say they look different from the disastrous 2005 season in which many bees were killed by mites. Some scientists have pointed the finger at cell phone towers and certain pesticides. Many beekeepers have found their hives deserted, without telltale signs of a mite infestation.