Day Seven: Pollinators and Bluestem

From the Bird to the Bees: Promoting Pollinator Health and Biodiversity in the PPR

Much has been made about the critical role pollinators play in human food production, but critters that scatter plant DNA are just as important in sustaining biological diversity in natural ecosystems. The group gamely donned bee suits and leaned in for a closer look at the granddaddy of all pollinators: the beleaguered but epically determined honeybee. 

PPR Conservation on the Other Side of the (State) Border – Minnesota’s Prairie Conservation Plan and Abundance in the Bluestem

 In 2008, Minnesota voters passed an amendment to the state Constitution called the “Clean Water, Land and Legacy” amendment. The Legacy Amendment hiked state sales tax rates by three-eights of one percent through 2034. The result is an annual funding stream of $100 million or more. Taking advantage of this mandate and a reliable funding stream, a group of ten conservation groups and state and federal agencies came up with the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan. Historically, tallgrass prairie covered 18 million acres of the Minnesota landscape, stretching from what is now Manitoba to Iowa. Today, only about 235,000 acres survive – often in tiny tracts of land that were in terrain too difficult to farm. But, what Minnesota lacks in prairie pothole quantity, it hopes to make up for in conservation initiative. We’ll visit The Nature Conservancy’s Bluestem Prairie Scientific and Natural Area, one of the “crown jewels” in Minnesota’s scant string of “core” prairie habitat. Fellows heard about the plan from its architects, saw how the plan is leading to real-world restoration projects and talked with researchers about the importance of this preserve as both a migratory stopover and home to seventy resident species of birds – from greater prairie chickens and sandhill cranes, to marbled godwits and upland sandpipers.