AdkAction’s Pollinator Project spreads awareness through plant sales, community gardens and more
By Holly Riddle
According to the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan released in 2016, the loss of managed pollinator colonies in the state at that time had exceeded 50%, with some commercial migratory pollinators experiencing colony losses exceeding 70%.
The data is the most recent documentation on pollinators in the state of its kind, until the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation releases its Empire State Native Pollinator Survey next year. In the meantime, AdkAction is doing its part to fight pollinator decline in the Adirondacks, through its Adirondack Pollinator Project.
A natural evolution of the organization’s Monarch Project, which began in 2012, the Adirondack Pollinator Project launched in 2016, shortly following the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan’s release.
“It was an ‘aha’ moment for us. As we looked through the list of recommendations for all pollinators, it wasn’t so different from what we were asking [participants] to do to protect monarchs,” says Brittany Christenson, executive director at AdkAction.
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Previously, AdkAction’s Monarch Program had focused on distributing information and expanding public awareness on monarch butterflies and their importance, distributing more than 20,000 milkweed seed packets, an important food source for the insect.
“A lot of people started planting milkweed seeds and we saw people no longer cutting or weed-whipping milkweed plants,” says Christenson. “We felt like we were really making a difference.”
Now, AdkAction — along with its partners at The Wild Center, Paul Smith’s College and Lake Placid Land Conversancy — is making an even bigger difference on behalf of all Adirondack pollinators. The organization distributes pollinator plant seed packets, more than 70,000 packets to date; has sold more than 8,000 pollinator-friendly plants via an annual spring plant sale; and has planted more than a dozen pollinator gardens at community sites around the region.
Christenson notes that the 2021 plant sale was the most successful to date, with more than 6,000 plants sold this spring alone, and, to continue the season’s successes, AdkAction just announced 11 new pollinator garden sites.
This year’s selected sites get everything they need to build a garden. The sites include:
- View Art Center, Old Forge;
- Town of Franklin Public Park;
- St. Bernard’s Elementary School, Saranac Lake;
- Saranac Lake Triangle Park, managed by Saranac Lake Village Improvement Society;
- SUNY Adirondack College Farm;
- Mountain Lake PBS;
- Upper Saranac Lake Northern Public Boat Launch, managed by Upper Saranac Foundation;
- Urban Green Space Vacant Lot on Woodruff Street, Saranac Lake;
- Public Park Community Garden, Glens Falls;
- Camp Aldersgate, Brantingham;
- and a yet-to-be-decided site in Elizabethtown funded by Olivia and Victoria’s Annual Lemonade Stand to Save the Pollinators.
Lasting impact on communities
In 2019, the Town of Indian Lake Library applied for and received one of AdkAction’s pollinator gardens. Library director Susan Rollings says, “The pollinator garden has added a beautiful focal point to our front lawn that attracts attention and it has signs to educate our visitors about the importance of creating pollinator-friendly zones and info about the plants… AdkAction is a wonderful organization to work with, and even a small little garden can go a long way to helping spread the message about the importance of a healthy ecosystem.”
Last year, the library remodeled its entrance and, as a result, will be replanting some of its landscaping this summer, this time incorporating pollinator-friendly plants. Rollings adds, “AdkAction has also offered us a few more of the hexagon planters [that] we will fill with similar plantings as well. We hope to resume our monarch-raising efforts this summer, too, now that the library is once again open to patrons coming in.”
Chazy Presbyterian Church was also a 2019 pollinator garden recipient. Betsy Brooks explains, “I brought the idea to our Chazy Presbyterian Church leadership group because of my interest in pollinator habitats and native plants. It happened to coincide with a time when a beloved member of the church had recently died, and we were discussing how to honor her. The idea came together because she was a gardener, and the garden would provide a setting for a bench with a plaque in her honor.”
The church is similarly planning to expand its pollinator efforts this summer.
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Christenson says AdkAction hopes to use the information gleaned from next year’s 2022 Empire State Native Pollinator Survey to further expand the organization’s efforts in the future, focusing on underutilized spaces throughout the Adirondacks.
“One of the areas we’re hoping to get more involved in is roadside practices,” she says. “There’s a huge opportunity for roadside habitats. A quick analysis shows there’s a possibility of over 10,000 acres of roadsides in the Adirondacks that could be pollinator habitats. We’d love to work with municipalities to alter mowing behaviors to allow for pollinator plants to bloom and provide habitat. We also want to work with the Adopt-a-Highway program to plant pollinator seeds on roadsides, so when people are out cleaning up garbage, we’d love to provide seeds for them to plant.”
For anyone who would like to join the efforts in restoring the Adirondack’s pollinator population, visit the AdkAction Adirondack Pollinator Project webpage.