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Park Pursuits, Other Projects Protect Wisconsin's Pollinators

Park Pursuits, Other Projects Protect Wisconsin's Pollinators

ANDREA ZANI

Andrea Zani is managing editor of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

When it comes to protecting our pollinators, it’s an “all hands on deck” effort.

“Our native pollinators are incredibly important to maintaining Wisconsin’s native ecosystems, many fruit crops and backyard gardens, but they need our help," said Jay Watson, DNR insect ecologist.

A new funding source is supporting the commitment to protect these critical species. In 2019, the Wisconsin Pollinator Protection Fund, managed by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, was kick-started by an anonymous $500,000 donation. Since then, the fund has powered pollinator aid thanks to numerous contributors — DNR programs, federal and local government, community and private partners, and people like you.

“The great thing about pollinators is that everyone can get involved, from individuals to schools to businesses to farmers,” said Caitlin Williamson, director of conservation programs for the Natural Resources Foundation. “Our small actions, combined together, can make a difference.”

The Wisconsin Pollinator Protection Fund supports habitat management by both public and private partners. DNR projects and programs around the state are supported through the fund, which to date has invested more than $653,000 to support native pollinator conservation and education efforts.

Black and gold bumblebee

Black and gold bumblebee

Jay Watson

Much of the activity is happening at state parks, with DNR staff leading a “Pollinators in the Parks” program to create pollinator gardens and other habitat enhancements.

So far, 11 park properties have benefited — Blue Mound, Governor Dodge, Hartman Creek (via the park’s Friends Group), High Cliff, Lake Wissota, Nelson Dewey, Roche-A-Cri, Willow River, Wyalusing and Yellowstone Lake state parks, plus Havenwoods State Forest. More parks will be added this year.

DNR’s Wildlife Management program also plays a role in pollinator work at state wildlife areas with help from the Pollinator Protection Fund. And at state natural areas, the Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation guides more efforts. Money for that work also comes from the DNR’s Endangered Resources Fund through the sale of special license plates and direct donations, including via the state income tax form checkoff.

In addition, the Natural Resources Foundation supports the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative, endangered bee surveys and the DNR’s Wisconsin Bumble Bee Brigade citizen science program — all to support the state’s hard-working pollinators.

Williamson emphasized the importance of aiding pollinators, which are vital for Wisconsin’s natural communities and agricultural crops. It takes everyone’s efforts, she added.

“Pollinator conservation will take decades of work,” she said, “and longterm sustainable support.”

LEARN MORE

Everyone can help Wisconsin’s pollinators by planting native plants, adding milkweed for monarchs and getting involved with the citizen science efforts of the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative (wiatri.net/projects/monarchs) and Bumble Bee Brigade (wiatri.net/inventory/bbb). Donations also make a big difference. Give to the DNR’s Endangered Resources Fund at dnr.wi.gov/topic/endangeredresources or donate to the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin at wisconservation.org/donate.