By Sunni Heikes-Knapton
Pollinators don’t worry about pandemics. Stay-at-home orders and social isolation aren’t stopping the bees, butterflies, bats and moths from doing their important tasks in our landscape. Similarly, our nation’s conservation districts also continue their valuable work during a challenging time, even on efforts that help those same pollinators to keep working.
For the board and staff of the Lake County Conservation District in Montana, they have adjusted to the challenges of COVID-19 and have maintained work in several areas, including their very successful Pollinator Initiative. Now entering its fourth year, this program continues to promote and support pollinator habitat in the northwest region of the state.
“The pollinator initiative’s goals are to provide free pollinator seed mixes to the public and technical assistance in establishing, maintaining and monitoring a pollinator plot,” said Sarah Klaus of the Lake County Conservation District. “We have been able to keep our pollinator initiative alive by sending seed by mail, doing socially-distanced site visits and email communicating.”
The district is able to cycle employees at the office who continue to process and package their popular seed packets, which includes a mix of species that was custom-designed for their region by their staff. To date, the Lake County Conservation District has helped establish more than nine acres of plantings in the county by working with over 220 participants, and they have created a community garden with the Boys and Girls Club that includes several pollinator beds.
In an era where in-person communication has been restricted, the district has found ways to distribute information to a range of interested parties. They use social media and email newsletters to get their message out, and for the first time this year, they are educating and advising other districts in Montana. They share their resources, seed mixes and provide two acres of seed for districts who are starting their own pollinator initiatives.
“We are proud that we created a program that people are excited about and that they want to get involved with,” Klaus said. “The desire to create pollinator habitat is refreshing and inspires us to keep expanding.”
Despite encountering a number of disruptions and canceling outreach and education events, they have adjusted to keep conservation work going. While the challenges can be stressful, the outcomes of their work provide a much needed bit of good news during a hard time.
“The Pollinator Initiative is a shiny bit of light, not only for us, but for many of the participants who are hoping to plant a pollinator plot,” Klaus said. “Even during a crisis, people still care about creating habitat for pollinators.”
To learn more about the work of Lake County Conservation District, go to https://lakecountyconservationdistrict.org/.