CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWQC) – Cedar Rapids is embarking on an ambitious program designed to create new sanctuaries for pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Crews this spring will seed 188 acres with native prairie grasses and wildflowers with the goal of eventually covering a total of 1,000 acres.
A chief goal of the project is to respond to the ongoing decline of the bee population which scientists are still working to definitively explain but which may be caused by a variety of factors including pesticides and climate change.
The non-profit Centre for Research on Globalization reports harsh winters in Iowa in recent years in which freezing temperatures lingered into spring are blamed on decimating the state’s honeybee population by up to 70%.
At the same time, the natural habitat for bees, which city officials say contribute to 30% of our food production, has been disappearing.
“With the agricultural boom around 100 years ago, about 99.9 percent of all the native habitat of Iowa has been lost,” says Cedar Rapids Park Superintendent Daniel Gibbins.
Cedar Rapids is hoping the new 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative will help turn the tide by converting unused public land into prairie.
The city is identifying not only parcels of land in its parks for the project but also sections of public sewer and water detention basins and right of ways.
Within five years, the aim is to cover 1,000 acres in native wildflowers and grasses so pollinators can thrive.
“When you convert it back to what was originally native Iowa, you’re going to help a lot more than just native pollinators,” Gibbins tells Popular Science. “You’re helping birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals—everything that’s native here relies on native vegetation.”
Volunteers plan to spread the word to surrounding counties about the city’s initiative in the hopes of getting private citizens on board.
Each year they hope to convert 10% of mowed turf on private land into pollinator habitats.
Clark McLeod with the Monarch Research Project is supporting the project and says a difference can be made if everyone works together.
“We need to get away from grooming every acre and change people’s mindset as to what is beautiful,” McLeod says.