States Increasingly Pass Laws to Protect Pollinators!

PictureArkansas State Capitol Photo: By EukeshOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

If you’re interested in pollinator conservation policy at the local, state, national, or international level, you may want to read a groundbreaking report in Environmental Science and Policy. Dr. Damon Hall is Assistant Professor at the School of Natural Resources in the Department of Biomedical, Biological & Chemical Engineering, at the University of Missouri (affectionately known as Mizzou), a certified Bee Campus USA affiliate since 2016.  Hall teamed up with Rebecca Steiner of Saint Louis University to publish, “Insect Pollinator Conservation Policy Innovations: Lessons for Lawmakers.”

Until February 24, 2019, anyone can download the report for free using the author’s link:
https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1YLKd5Ce0rVvlT
 
The report provides a content analysis of 109 insect pollinator policies passed by U.S. state-level legislatures from 2000 to 2017—notably both before and then after publicity about colony collapse disorder, neonicotinoid insecticides, and highly-visible bee kills. Thirty-six states passed between one and nine laws each that fit into six categories: 1) Laws tightening apicultural management: bees as livestock; 2) Evolving views of bees as beneficial insects: laws to review pesticides; 3) Addressing pollinator declines: task forces on pollinator health; 4) Creating and managing habitats for pollinators;  5) Policy for increasing awareness of insect pollinators; and, 6) Research for insect pollinators.
 
From a positive perspective, these state level actions often bridge political divides and are predictors of what’s to come at the national and international levels. Moreover, they show lawmakers are increasingly seeing pollinators as beneficial insects which changes how lawmakers address pesticides. 
 
The authors organized the laws into a searchable database, characterizing policy trends and documenting the spectrum of policy innovations. Hall says, “These 109 new laws cover apiculture, pesticides, pollinator awareness, pollinator habitat, and research. Together, they narrate an evolution of bureaucratic thinking on insects.” 
 
Perhaps the most comprehensive habitat protection signed into law (MN HF976, 2013) is Minnesota’s Pollinator Habitat Program, requiring the Commissioner of Agriculture to develop best management practices and habitat restoration guidelines for pollinator habitat enhancement, and report to the agriculture and natural resource legislative committee. The report, developed in collaboration with the Pollution Control Agency, Board of Water and Soil Resources, and representatives of the University of Minnesota, must include proposals for establishing a “pollinator bank” to preserve pollinator species, creating “pollinator nesting and foraging habitat…including establishment of pollinator reserves or refuges,” and “provide criteria to evaluate neonicotinoid pesticides.”
 
As Americans complain that the government is often gridlocked at the national level, Hall says, “I wanted to see the actual points of agreement at state levels around insect pollinator conservation. In so doing, we could argue that these more than 100 policies passed by state legislatures constitute points of consensus worth exploring for national policies and international agreements. After all, sustaining pollinators crosses rural and urban, and left and right, divides.”


Report Citation:
Hall, D. M., & Steiner, R. (2019). Insect pollinator conservation policy innovations: Lessons for lawmakers. Environmental Science & Policy93, 118-128.

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