The dramatic drop in the bee population and other pollinator species has raised concerns across the United States. Environmental challenges such as climate change, the use of pesticides and habitat loss due to the decrease of native plants are among the major threats to pollination countrywide.
Assembly Democrats Eric Houghtaling, Chris Tully, Lisa Swain, Matt Milam and Bruce Land are the sponsors of five measures aiming to encourage healthy pollination in the state and develop existing spaces into pollinator habitats through the promotion of native plants.
“Cross-pollination helps at least 30 percent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of wild plants to grow and thrive. Without bees, butterflies and other such insects to spread seeds, many plants—including food crops—would simply die off,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “Many underestimate the need for pollinators. We think that pollination just takes care of itself. The truth is we can do more to encourage pollination diversity and abundance throughout the state.”
Animal pollinators, such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, are extremely important to the State agricultural production as approximately one-third of all crops grown depend on pollinators for reproduction.
“In a landscape defined by parking lots and manicured lawns, pollinators like hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies can have a difficult time finding food and shelter,” said Tully (D-Bergen). “By turning even the smallest of available green spaces like flower boxes and curb strips into native plant gardens, communities are creating ‘stepping stones’ for these species between larger habitat patches that is critical to our own survival through food production.”
“Climate change and our use of insecticides can be attributed to the decline we’ve seen in the bee population and pollinator species,” said Swain (D-Bergen). “Without bees, many of our most important crops would be directly affected. Pollination is a delicate cycle but one that can be made to grow with the promotion of habitat creation and planting native plants in areas of the state not currently being used for a purpose.”
“Food and nesting sites are necessary to a pollinators survival,” said Milam (D-Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland). “Using our open spaces wisely will help to grow pollination habitats in the state and replenish pollinator species which our crops and native plants rely on.”
“Certain non-native plant species are believed to be crowding out native plant species, depleting soil and adversely affecting the migration and lifecycle of pollinators,” said Land (D-Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland). “One important step in mitigating the harmful effects is through awareness and encouraging farmers and residents with gardens to buy plants which are native and spread pollination.”
According to a recent article on the “pollinator health crisis” in Florida, one in three mouthfuls of everything we eat directly or indirectly rely upon honeybee production, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pollinators contribute more than $24 billion to the American economy, $15 billion from honey bees alone. Managed honey bees dropped from 6 million colonies in 1947 to 2.5 million now. Meanwhile, monarch butterflies have dropped 84 percent.
The following bills were approved by the Assembly Agriculture Committee, of which Assemblyman Houghtaling chairs:
|Creates “Pollinator Pathway” designation for municipalities.|
|Requires State Board of Agriculture to provide list of environmentally harmful plant species to Legislature each year.|
|Establishes “pollinator-friendly” label for plants.|
|Directs DEP to establish pollinator habitat program for closed landfills.|
|Directs DEP to establish leasing program for State-owned land to be used and managed as pollinator habitat.|
The bills will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.