Bees, butterflies to find a sweet home in Elk River

Pollinator Week 2017Ten years ago the U.S. Senate unanimously approved and designated a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” to address the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. National Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

“We rely on pollinators for more the 60 percent of the foods we eat,” said Marsha Parlow, environmental lead for Great River Energy. “This week is set aside to consider what we can do as both an electric co-op and community partner to help restore pollinators to their healthy population levels.”

Supporting pollinator habitat restoration and helping move bees and butterflies to healthy population levels supports the co-op principle “concern for community.”

The pollinator-friendly habitat project that Great River Energy is working on with Elk River Energy City and the Minnesota Department of Transportation is coming along at Great River Energy’s Elk River campus. Late last month, seeding of oats, rye and other grasses was complete, and soon more than 11,000 starter plants will be planted.

As more than 27,000 motorists travel by the Highway 10 location daily, this site has the opportunity to educate motorists and others about the importance of pollinator-friendly habitat. Pollinators provide an ecological service necessary for the reproduction of more than 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species.

Recently there have been many reports of a steady decline in the population of pollinators. This decline is due in large part to the loss of the habitat they need to survive. The habitat that will be re-established on the Elk River campus will provide a home for pollinators in the area, and a great stop for migrating monarch butterflies on their way to Mexico where they winter.

Elk River isn’t the only pollinator project Great River Energy has taken on to promote a healthy population of bees and butterflies. In the last two years, Great River Energy has held pollinator-friendly plantings at two environmental learning centers underneath their solar arrays. Great River Energy has also assisted Three Rivers Park District in restoring pollinator-friendly habitat along a transmission right of way.

Since 2004, Great River Energy has restored approximately 200 acres of native habitat. This includes habitat at Lakefield Junction Station, Pleasant Valley Peaking Station, Cambridge Peaking Plant, New Prague service center and Maple Grove headquarters site