Saying that pollinators – think bees and butterflies – are vital to the nation’s food supply, the White House on Tuesday unveiled a strategy that aims to mitigate devastating losses in colonies in the U.S.
Developed by a task force created last year, the strategy was pulled together by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its goals are to reduce honey bee colony losses to economically sustainable levels; increase the number of monarch butterflies; and restore or enhance millions of acres of land available for pollinators.
The action is the latest in a series of efforts by the White House to stem bee losses, although Tuesday’s action was met with concerns that it was too timid to accomplish its stated goals.
Driving Tuesday’s action is the simple fact that, as White House science adviser John P. Holdren said in a blog post, “pollinators are struggling.”
“Last year, beekeepers reported losing about 40 percent of honey bee colonies, threatening the viability of their livelihoods and the essential pollination services their bees provide to agriculture. Monarch butterflies, too, are in jeopardy.”
Among other things, the strategy released Tuesday calls for a coordination of federal research into the causes of bee losses, as well as a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to pollinator losses. The strategy aims to increase the quantity and quality of habitat for pollinators, and calls for projects such as “pollinator gardens at federal buildings.” The administration also released a set of pollinator-friendly practices for federal lands.
While environmental experts were glad for the White House’s interest in the issue, they also said its plan didn’t go far enough.
Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy organization, noted that bees and other pollinators are responsible for pollinating more than a third of the public’s food supply.
“The president is right to elevate the urgency of this matter,” he said in a statement. “While the task force’s recommendations are a good first step toward saving them, more urgent action is needed to safeguard our food supply… But to truly save bees and other pollinators, we must drastically cut down on today’s pervasive use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides.”