SOU Wins National Sustainability Award for Bee Campus USA Program!

PictureL to R: Fahmida Ahmed, AASHE board chair; Craig Morris, SOU vice president of finance and administration; Jessica Harper, student farm manager at SOU’s Center for Sustainability; Sydney Lund, student director of SOU’s Ecology and Sustainability Center; Roxane Beigel-Coryell, SOU sustainability and recycling coordinator; Sam Pennington-Vrsek, staff member with the SOU grounds department; and Meghan Fay Zahniser, AASHE executive director.

(Ashland, Ore.) Southern Oregon University was named the winner yesterday of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Best Case Study sustainability award. SOU won for its project “Bee Campus USA as a Model for Pollinator-Friendly Campuses.”

For the project, SOU collaborated with Bee City USA to establish a Bee Campus USA designation. The designation recognizes campuses that commit to a set of practices that support pollinators, including bees, butterflies, birds, and bats, among other species. Through a six-month process SOU was able to align its practices to meet the newly established guidelines and in April 2015 was named the nation’s first Bee Campus USA.

In its application for the AASHE award, SOU noted that the project had several key goals, including “to establish broad support across the campus and in the community for pollinator-friendly policies and practices.”

Through their collaboration, SOU and Bee City USA established seven key pollinator-friendly practices that can be used as goals for all campuses nationwide. They include establishing a permanent university committee that develops a Campus Pollinator Habitat Plan, hosting annual events that celebrate pollinators, surveying and encouraging service learning projects that benefit pollinators, offering courses and workshops on pollinator ecology, posting educational signage that educates the public about campus pollinator-friendly practices, maintaining recognition as a Bee Campus USA designee, and maintaining a website that shares Bee Campus USA news.

“We were very excited when we were named the nation’s first Bee Campus USA,” said SOU President Roy Saigo. “This recognition confirms the importance of the hard work that went into not only earning that designation, but helping to develop the guidelines as well. This is just one of the many ways that SOU demonstrates our commitment to sustainability.”

The work to create the Bee Campus USA program comes at a critical time, as many pollinators are experiencing unprecedented losses: continuing declines of honeybee colonies reached the highest rate for summer losses ever recorded this past year; Monarch Butterfly migration is threatened due to habitat losses; and multiple pollinator species such as the lesser long-nosed bat are threatened with extinction. “Hardworking pollinators are responsible for about 1/3 of our food and 85 percent of the world’s flowering plant species,” according to Phyllis Stiles, director of Bee City USA. “We are grateful to SOU for helping to pioneer this important new program to harness the influence of educational campuses to expand pollinator habitat, and educate their students and communities about ways to protect pollinators.”

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