The U.S. government will make federal lands more friendly to bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators, according to a White House action plan to take action to help bees, released today.
Stopping short of outright banning pesticides harmful or deadly to bees, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a more wait-and-see attitude until results of a flurry of still-incomplete studies' results are in.
"EPA recognizes that both bees and insect control are essential to the success of agriculture. While these two issues might seem inherently at odds, since insecticides are often toxic to bees, EPA is working to optimize bee health and insect control by reducing bees' exposure to pesticides without losing the ability to control pests in agriculture," said the agency in a detailed report about its plans.
The government's action plan follows a report last week from the Bee Informed Partnership that over the past 12 months, 42.1 percent of bee colonies in the United States were lost, the second-highest annual loss ever recorded.
Monarch butterflies are also in trouble, with a 90 percent drop in the number of monarchs that spend the winter in Mexico's forests over the past 20 years.
"Pollinators are critical to our nation's economy, food security and environmental health," said John P. Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in a statement.
"Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year and provides the backbone to ensuring our diets are plentiful with fruits, nuts and vegetables. Through the actions discussed in this strategy, and by working with partners across our country, we can and will help restore and sustain pollinator health nationwide."
The action plan involves planting millions of acres of federally owned lands with plants that are friendlier to pollinators -- 7 million acres in the next five years, Holdren said. That includes urban parks, roofs and and green spaces alongside train tracks and airports.
Some are criticizing the moves as not enough.
"President Obama's National Pollinator Health Strategy does not go far enough to address the unsustainable losses of bees and other pollinators essential to our food system," said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth. "Failure to address this growing crisis with a unified and meaningful federal plan will put these essential pollinators and our food supply in jeopardy."