There are a lot of grants around now that are designed to encourage municipalities to move into a new, greener era. They support sustainable energy, reducing carbon emissions, creating cooling centers, and preventing flooding. When it comes to pollinators, though, they get stuck funding demonstration gardens. While these are lovely additions to a town and they are certainly needed habitat, they do not help a municipality incorporate pollinator-friendly actions into their day-to-day routine. Here is what grants need to fund if they truly want to make municipalities pollinator-friendly.

Policy Revision

The grants I have seen that are willing to fund policy changes usually focus on resolutions. These resolutions give the reasoning why the municipality feels it is important to protect pollinators and native plants. They are broad in nature and are meant to guide future decisions. However, if staff or elected officials are not specifically aware how construction, gardening, and landscaping choices can affect pollinators, they may never take the necessary action.

To truly make municipalities pollinator-friendly, a better approach is to accompany a pollinator resolution with a thorough review of the municipal code. Some municipalities may have no language that prevents pollinator habitats while others might have quite a lot. Some may find they are specifically protecting pollinators and native plants in a particular region but not everywhere. By going through the code, policy can become consistently pollinator-friendly.

Landscaping Changes

Sidewalk strips are a major part of landscaping in any municipality. They are typically grass, though many are concrete. Some have a few trees – but never with any other plants that would make the full pollinator lifecycle feasible.

Where grants could really make an impact would be to fund municipalities in a plan to convert sidewalk strips to pollinator habitat. Ideally, a 5-year plan could be funded so municipalities could decide which streets to start with and where to go from there. Grants could fund creating lists of native trees, shrubs, forbs, and groundcovers that are resilient in the face of pollution and road salt. They could also fund the cost of designers to create and install the gardens.

Staff and Elected Official Education

If grants really want to make an impact on pollinator habitat, they also need to fund education. Most municipal staff has received zero training on pollinators and native plants. Elected officials are in the same boat. In order to make sure pollinator habitat is maintained properly, there needs to be ongoing education.

Landscape, public works, and parks and rec staff all need education on pollinator lifecycles and what that means in terms of grounds maintenance. Building inspectors also need to receive training on how to promote pollinator habitat, particularly when residents voice concerns about weeds.

Community Education

If a town’s residents don’t understand the purpose of shifting to pollinator habitat, they may not be able to appreciate the results. By reaching out to local gardening clubs and offering informational brochures or presentations at community events, municipalities can start normalizing pollinator habitat in their communities. Grants can make a big impact by funding the events and printing costs required to help a community move towards native plant and pollinator habitat.

Make Municipalities Pollinator-Friendly

Grants are an essential tool for creating pollinator-friendly communities – but they need to expand their focus beyond demonstration gardens. To get the impact they hope for, municipal grants need to start funding policy changes, new landscaping approaches, and education of staff, elected officials, and the broader community.

Photo (c) Heather Holm