POP Kicks Off Pollinator Pathway Initiative
Perched on a flowering Joe Pye Weed, a butterfly sinks its proboscis into the bloom. The photograph, courtesy of the National Wildlife Association and featured in a Newtown Protect Our Pollinators group (POP) brochure, is captioned, “Monarch butterfly populations have plummeted approximately 90 percent in the last two decades.”
This and other affiliated topics drew a standing-room-only crowd of at least 70 attendees on Sunday, April 7, kicking off POP’s pollinator pathway initiative for Newtown.
Poised to welcome the many guests filling the C.H. Booth Library meeting room was POP member Mary Wilson. “I’m overwhelmed by the crowd,” she said. “Amazing. I think the pollinator ‘thing’ is catching on.”
She first described pathways as “not a trail, it’s more of a concept, a fly-way.” The pollinator pathway is a “wildlife corridor providing habitat and nutrition for pollinators,” according to a POP brochure. The pathway is “healthy, pesticide-free yards and public spaces for pollinators, pets, and families.”
She and others hope to engage the community in creating pollinator pathways for bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, birds, bats, and more creatures that “move pollen from one plant to another,” and “allow reproduction and growth of new plants,” states the brochure.
Ms Wilson explained that POP in Newtown began about three years ago.
She and others were aware that the bees “were dying,” and the butterfly population was “way down,” and knowledge about the dangers of pesticides and importance of clean habitat and healthy pollinators “led to the idea of pathways,” Ms Wilson said. Today, the POP group, Newtown Forest Association, Parks & Recreation, Conservation Commission, Newtown Environmental Action Team, garden and horticultural clubs, and more “are involved,” she said.
Schools in town are installing pollinator gardens, and “the kids can carry the message forward,” Ms Wilson said. POP members are also “talking to others to plant pollinator gardens in town.”
According to the POP brochure, “widespread application of pesticides and other chemicals used on lawns, landscaping plantings, nursery stock, and agricultural crops,” is threatening the pollinators. Also posing a threat to pollinators is flowerless landscapes, loss of habitat, spreading invasive species, and climate change, the brochure states.
Coordinating the effort with residents and local groups and organizations is a large part of the pathway initiative, Ms Wilson said. “Our success will depend on what you all do,” she added. “You go into yards and neighborhoods and plant native plants and do not use pesticides.”
Ms Wilson commented, “If you create a habitat that is good for pollinators, then it is good for you, kids, pets…” She said, “We need you to spread the word about what we do.”
POP member Holly Kocet added, “The smallest yard can make a difference.”
Following the POP members was First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, who had drafted a pollinators proclamation endorsing the pathway effort.
“They asked for the town’s support,” he said. POP’s work is “great for our community,” and Mr Rosenthal thanked them.
Mr Rosenthal encouraged landowners “to take part,” in creating pollinator pathways.
Mary Ellen Lemay, a facilitator for Hudson to Housatonic Regional Conservation Partnership (H2H) referenced a story often told by Donna Merrill, Director of Wilton Land Trust. Ms Lemay was one of several guest speakers Sunday.
Ms Merrill had read about a Bee Highway, where a woman had reached out to neighbors asking them to plant pots with plants suitable to pollinators, and she “made a Bee Highway,” said Ms Lemay.
Local efforts to plant trees, flowers, and more specifically for pollinators, had “rolled down to H2H.” She encouraged the connection of pathways to “cross town lines into other towns.”
She noted that what started out small in recent years now has about 40 towns in two states participating. Monroe, Bridgeport, and Fairfield are “signed up,” said Ms Lemay. “We’ve got Fairfield County locked up.”
Pathways can be small back yards “to massive areas,” such as a meadow, she said. “Once pollinators are attracted, birds will come, and plants, and you’ll have a biodiverse ecosystem.”
Louise Washer also spoke Sunday. Norwalk River Watershed Association President, Ms Washer heads the all-volunteer organization protecting water quality and fish and wildlife habitat in seven watershed towns of Norwalk, Wilton, Ridgefield, Redding, Weston, New Canaan, and Lewisboro, N.Y. She helped create the Pollinator Pathway, which connects more than a dozen towns in Connecticut and New York.
Her work includes serving on the steering committee for H2H.
The pollinator effort “has connected people in different towns on this issue,” she said.
The pathway concept is a “grass roots” effort in each town, where some towns are doing container projects or “getting kids involved in a bumble bee watch,” she said.
Lisa Turoczi from the 100 percent native plant nursery Earth Tones in Woodbury spoke briefly on the symbiotic relationship between native plants and pollinators.
Residents can sign up for the pathway by going to pollinator-pathway.org. Also, “We are happy to meet with anyone who would like more info — organizations, neighborhoods, etc,” said Ms Wilson.
Ms Wilson said in an e-mail after the event, “I still can’t quite believe the turnout for the meeting. This was amazing and demonstrates that people do care about the natural world, a timely validation with Earth Day being just around the corner.”
Speakers on April 7 included Mary Ellen Lemay, Emily May, Lisa Turoczi, and Louise Washer.
Ms Lemay is a facilitator for Hudson to Housatonic Regional Conservation Partnership (H2H) She is an outreach coordinator for Aspetuck Land Trust and is chairman of the Trumbull Conservation Commission. She is a state-certified Master Wildlife Conservationist and a member of Connecticut Native Plants for Pollinators and Wildlife Working group.
Ms May is a pollinator conservation specialist with the Pesticide Program at the Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, which serves areas in the Northeast. Her work with Xerces since 2015 has focused on supporting pollinators through habitat creation and mitigating pesticide risk to bees and other insects.
Ms Turoczi is co-owner of Earth Tones Native Plant Nursery in Woodbury, founded in 2004. She works to create landscape designs for a healthier, eco-friendly environment.
Her work includes New England Cottontail Habitat for the Natural Resource Conservation Service, an educational shoreline management plan with First Light Power Company, an outdoor trail for White Memorial Conservation Center, and a riparian buffer restoration along the Housatonic River.
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