Earlier this week a U.S. government Task Force released a Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The strategy was requested by Presidential Memorandum last year and the task force is led by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture.
The major goals of the strategy are:
- Reduce honey bee colony losses to economically sustainable levels (no more than 15%) within 10 years;
- Increase monarch butterfly numbers to protect the annual migration (225 million in the Eastern population by 2020); and
- Restore or enhance millions of acres of land for pollinators through combined public and private action (7 million within 5 years).
Accompanying the strategy is a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which has ten subject areas and five main action areas. Those action areas are:
Establishing a baseline – Researchers would establish numbers and conditions for existing populations of pollinators, the better to understand what influences populations decline and how those populations change.
Assess environmental influences – Here is where researchers would examine the neonicotinoids and other chemicals used that may contribute to population declines. Such environmental influences include pests, diseases and proper nutrition.
Restoring habitats – A major goal of the strategy, habitat restoration includes the plant species that depend on pollinators.
Understanding and supporting stakeholders – Another way in which this strategy is not all about the bees is its focus on those engaged with pollinators and the crops that rely on them. It’s another reason economics are one of the subject areas of emphasis in the research action plan.
Curating and sharing knowledge – This area covers how the processes of research and data collection could or should be standardized to make it easier to communicate this research to other countries and to researchers in other fields.
The subject areas of focus in this plan are: status and trends (in existing research); economics; habitat; nutrition; pathogens and pests’ pesticides and toxins; genetics, breeding and biology; native plant development and deployment; collections and informatics; and models, tools and best practices.
In addition to the two research plans, the task force also released documents on pollinator-friendly management practices, and several appendices to the strategy, which are pollinator protection plans for several federal agencies – some of which one might not expect to engage with pollinators on a regular basis. I think it is here where you will get the most detailed look at the federal actions likely to unfold over the next few years.