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Midland's pollinator plan a good start, but naturalists say long-term action essential

Town will reduce mowing of some municipal land this year as part of a pilot project
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A Monarch butterfly visits these echinacea plants near "Mac" McAllen Park last summer. Carol Philips photo

Local field naturalists are applauding Midland’s move to protect pollinators as a designated Bee City.

But they also offer words of caution in the town’s commitment to start a pilot project to test the outcomes of no-mow and reduced-mow zones.

“It looks to me like the town is mostly trumpeting their resolve to not do something in order to help pollinators, saving money at the same time by not mowing certain areas,” said Ken MacDonald, program director with the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists (MPFN).

“I would be more excited if they committed to doing positive things to support pollinators and perhaps even spending some money.”

As a suggestion, MacDonald said the town could use some of its recently received grant money towards beautification and plantings on King Street to ensure that those plantings are composed of native species that can be used by native insects.

“The MPFN has volunteers who would be ready, willing and able to make sure that money is spent wisely,” MacDonald added.

The town’s commitment to protecting pollinator habitat comes from its designation as a Bee City.

The town says that by allowing specific areas of municipally-owned land to grow, it’s creating sustainable landscapes, saving energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and limiting noise from mowers.

As well, it notes that no-mow zones reduce storm-water runoff, protect water quality and create a safe place for bees, butterflies and other  pollinators.

As a member of the sustainability committee which prepared the town’s climate plan, Coun. Jonathan Main said he was keen for Midland to join the Bee City Canada program.

“Municipalities influence up to half of Canada’s GHGs, making local action key to the  success of the climate fight,” Main said.

“This effort helps to mitigate the town’s carbon emissions by developing green and vibrant public spaces that protect and expand our pollinator habitat and  biodiversity.”

MPFN vice president Robert Codd said , said the drastic reduction in pollinators needs immediate attention and while he noted Midland's measures may be modest, they represent a foundation to build on.

“It's easy to be cynical about politicians and at a glance it seems like reduced mowing is a cost-cutting measure disguised as being bee friendly,” he said, noting that becoming a Bee City does require some genuine commitments.

According to Codd, those commitments include: Creating biodiversity in pollinator habitats, educating the public about the importance of pollinators and a yearly commitment to celebrate pollinators.

“In addition, applicants are required to create a long-term strategy for protecting and enhancing pollinator habitat and to report annually to Bee City Canada,” Codd noted. “Communities are required to renew their certification every year. Certification requires buy-in from municipal staff as well as training and commitments to funding and other resources.

“So while my gut reaction was cynicism, after looking beneath the surface I really must say that Midland's motivation is sincere and I support their efforts 100%. Something absolutely must be done and Midland has stepped up to make a contribution.”

According to federal government data, a gasoline powered lawn mower emits about 48 kilograms (106 lbs) of GHGs in one season, deeming “gas-powered lawn mowers are inefficient and produce a lot of air pollution.”

The town, however, will  continue to mow most  areas with only select areas designated as no-mow or reduced-mow zones and that “the sites will not  interfere in any way with the enjoyment of the Town’s parks and trails.”

Severn Sound Environmental Association (SSEA) executive director Jullie Cayley said that by working with the town on the program, her agency is supporting the health of important  pollinator species.

“Our collaborative efforts will contribute to a healthy and resilient  environment, and establish long-term, pollinator habitat,” she said.

Andy Campbell, the town’s executive director of Environment and Infrastructure, said the municipality’s decision to commit to the Bee City Canada program has given staff a platform to investigate alternatives to traditional turf-management through learning and sharing of best practices for pollinators among the other Ontario and Canadian Bee City municipal program  members.

Added Campbell: “The resources available through the Bee City program combined with the valuable services of the SSEA will ensure our actions are effective and that the results are evaluated to justify the town’s efforts.”

To find out more about the Bee City Canada Program, and to access pollinator information and resources, click here. visit: https:/// 

To learn more about the actions and recommendations in the Town of Midland’s Climate  Change Action Plan, visit www.sustainablesevernsound.ca.  


 

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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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