With #NationalHoneyBeeDay just around the corner, I recently sat down for a virtual conversation with Dan Shaw, Senior Ecologist at the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. Dan manages the Lawns to Legumes pilot program – a collaborative effort to plant pollinator-friendly native plants in residential lawns. By creating new habitat, Lawns to Legumes aims to protect the federally endangered rusty patched bumblebee, which is also Minnesota’s state bee.
The project won Environmental Initiative’s 2021 Large Scale Sustainability Impact Award earlier this year.
The pilot project was completed in 2020. What’s been happening since then?
We are still assisting some residents that are part of the pilot phase but are also starting work on Phase 2 of the program, as our agency has been approved for additional funding through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the LCCMR. We have an application period opening in late August for individual support projects (for cost-share funding and coaching) and will have it open through much of the winter.
What was the biggest challenge you faced as you designed and launched the pilot?
To meet the needs of the large number of Minnesota residents excited about protecting at-risk pollinators we needed to act quickly to plan the program and provide funding, workshops, coaching, a habitat guide, planting templates and other information. Fortunately we had the Blue Thumb Planting for Clean Water partnership and other conservation partners around the state who collaborated on this effort.
What is your hope for the future of the project?
Our hope is to maintain the program’s momentum and support the movement to establish residential habitat for the Rusty-patched bumblebee and other at-risk species so their populations can stabilize into the future. Pollinators continue to be under threat from habitat and biodiversity loss, pesticides, climate change, disease and other impacts. Fortunately, Minnesota residents are still excited to be part of the solution.
Summer is starting to wind down. How can someone who is interested, get started?
Residents who are interested in participating in the program through funding, coaching, workshops and other opportunities can sign up for updates about the upcoming application period on our website. Early fall can be a good time to install containerized grasses and flowers and late fall can also be a good time for seeding native vegetation, or planting dormant trees and shrubs as long as they are sufficiently watered going into winter.
We encourage residents who are installing a DIY project to map their completed projects on our Lawns to Legume Map.