Pollinator-Friendly Urban Spaces and Working Lands5/31/19
The Gold Ridge RCD (GRRCD) and the RCD of Greater San Diego County (RCDGSDC) are working with community members to leverage home gardens, schools, and agricultural lands to create diverse and plentiful pollinator habitat.
Many pollinator species are seeing alarming population declines in California, and habitat loss is a key contributor to the problem. In urban areas, population growth is leading to an increased need for land that can accommodate infrastructure like schools, shopping centers, and residential homes. Land and open space that previously supported natural habitat for pollinators is constantly being converted to support urban growth and industrial development. While urban areas can be a stressor for pollinator species, it also represents an opportunity for conservation and public education. RCDs already work with schools, urban parks, and landscapes/gardens to bring conservation Best Management Practices, educational resources, and technical assistance to diverse communities in urban areas. RCDs also maintain partnerships with local public and private entities in control of properties in and adjacent to urban/wildland interfaces where pollinator support is critical.
On agricultural lands, RCDs are working with landowners to implement conservation practices on their properties. A landowner’s goals for conservation typically include enhancing soil health, improving water conservation, and protecting wildlife habitat. Many of the practices involved in meeting these conservation objectives can be enhanced or adapted to meet the needs of vulnerable pollinator species, including: Conservation cover, Contour buffer strips, Critical area planting, Filter strips, Forage and biomass planting, Riparian herbaceous cover, and Early successional habitat development and management.
Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) like the RCDGSDC and GRRCD are helping local residents and agricultural producers to transform their land into pollinator habitat. These two districts, like many other RCDs throughout the state, have pollinator programs demonstrating the exciting possibilities around pollinator recovery in California.
Gold Ridge RCD
Gold Ridge RCD had a pilot project to engage agricultural producers in pollinator conservation. The RCD was part of a collaborative effort to create pollinator habitat on seven working farms, including a vineyard, three organic vegetable crop farms, a cattle ranch, an orchard, and one diverse farm with grapes, vegetable crops, and livestock. Partners included Farm Stewards, Partners for Sustainable Pollination, the Xerces Society, the North Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council, and the many landowners and community members who helped to plant nearly 2 acres of pollinator habitat using over 6,100 plants.
For the pilot program, the Gold Ridge RCD helped producers create Farm Pollinator Plans specific to the farm or ranch. The plans included plantings such as hedgerows, field borders, nesting structures, appropriate flowering cover crop mixes, contour buffer strips and drift barriers, critical area planting, filter strips, and riparian and farm pond revegetation. Plantings were specifically designed to provide nesting habitat and year-round pollen and nectar sources for both native bee species and honeybees, while also supporting other pollinator species such as hummingbirds and bats.
“With a third of our food supply reliant on pollination, preserving or establishing pollinator habitat on working lands presents an ideal and critical opportunity to bolster resiliency of both these essential species and the production systems that rely on them.” – Noelle Johnson, Conservation Planner for Gold Ridge RCD
Several RCDs are looking at working lands as a viable option for creating pollinator habitat. The large space and availability of irrigation, as well as the willingness of many producers to be stewards of the land, make them ideal spaces to plant forage and habitat for native pollinators. See updates about the Gold Ridge RCD’s work by visiting their Facebook page.
The RCD of Greater San Diego County
The RCD of Greater San Diego County has been working to inspire action at residential homes and in local schools. Through demonstration gardens and free milkweed seeds, the RCD is encouraging residents to incorporate pollinator habitat into their home gardens. Milkweed is the sole food source for monarch butterflies in the caterpillar stage, and increasing milkweed habitat will be an essential piece of recovering populations of monarchs.
RCDs and our conservation partners know that forming partnerships which bring together multiple levels of expertise will be the best way to solve this problem. RCDGSDC is a founding member of the San Diego Pollinator Alliance (SDPA), a group of organizations and agencies working together to protect pollinators in San Diego County. Other members include Butterfly Farms, Sky Mountain Permaculture, the California Native Plant Society – San Diego Chapter, US Fish & Wildlife Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The SDPA aims to increase native pollinator habitat and awareness about pollinator-friendly practices throughout San Diego County through outreach, education, and on-the-ground programs. The San Diego Pollinator Alliance is developing a series of native demonstration pollinator gardens across the county to give residents ideas on how to create pollinator habitat at home. Demonstration pollinator habitats have been planted a Sike’s Adobe within the San Dieguito River Park and the Los Jilgueros Preserve in Fallbrook. In addition, they have recently worked with Lafayette Elementary and Scripps Ranch High School to build pollinator gardens.
The Pollinator Pathway is the Alliance’s largest demonstration plot and is now a permanent feature at the San Diego County Fair’s Infield Farm. There, fairgoers can receive a tour by a trained docent, walk through a butterfly free-flight house, and examine a honey bee display.
You can read more about the RCD of Greater San Diego County’s pollinator programs here or visit their Facebook page to stay updated on their work. For more information on why pollinators are important, please take a look at this fact sheet from our partners the Xerces Society.