Students flutter to support bees and butterflies

Today, students from Holy Rosary in Duluth made a positive difference in native north eastern Minnesota habitats by planting common milkweed, wild bergamot, fragrant giant hyssop and lindleys aster around a new solar PV array at the Laurentian Environmental Learning Center near Mesabi, Minn.

With everything in place, the enthusiastic students headed outside, shovels in hand, and made a positive difference on the local landscape. The new flowers are planted in their new home, helping to ensure a diverse future for northwoods pollinators.

“I think it’s a great experience for kids to have hands on learning with current environmental issues,” said Kristian Jankofsky, Laurentian Center’s manager. “The kids were able to interact with their environment in a responsible way taking these lessons with them to build a more sustainable future. Pollinator plantings like this support the unique learning experiences that students at the Laurentian Environmental Center get.”

A healthy population of pollinators, including bees and butterflies, is essential to sustaining the diverse forest and wetland communities of the Laurentian Environmental Learning Center’s more than 100-acre campus north of Mesabi, Minn. The common milkweed, wild bergamot, fragrant giant hyssop and lindleys aster plugs the students planted today will provide food and shelter for butterflies, native bees, birds and bats well into the future.

In June 2014, the White House established a Pollinator Health Task Force, which released a pollinator health strategy in May 2015. The strategy calls for a nationwide effort to focus on declining pollinator populations. Even small projects that restore pollinator friendly habitat can go a long way toward saving and sustaining pollinators, which includes bees and butterflies.

Like pollinators that partner with native plants to create healthy natural ecosystems, today’s project was made possible by several organizations working together for the common good.

Great River Energy, a wholesale electric provider to 28 Minnesota member co-ops including Lake Country Power and Cooperative Light and Power, provided funding for today’s project.

“As a cooperative, Great River Energy has a unique opportunity to lead in pollinator efforts in our local communities,” said Great River Energy representative Marsha Parlow. “We are hearing that people and organizations want to help these native butterflies and bees. That’s where we, as a cooperative, can make a difference. We can provide opportunities to join together, for students to learn and to make a contribution.”

Jeff Stedman said Boreal Natives, the native prairie contractor who partnered on this planting, is dedicated to the important work of restoring the specialized native plant communities associated with the northern portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. They utilize locally grown native seed and plant materials in their projects.

“As many people know, populations of butterflies, bees and other pollinators have experienced a rapid decline in recent years,” Stedman said. “Much of the decline can be attributed to loss or degradation of habitat. These pollinators have co-evolved with our native plants so restoring native plantings wherever possible is essential. Each restoration, like the one occurring at the Laurentian Center, will help to provide the habitat needed by pollinators and other wildlife.”

Visitors are welcome to visit the pollinator habitat on the Laurentian Center campus near Britt, Minn.  See www.laurentiancenter.org for hours and details.