Washington, DC-- Last Friday, the City Council of Minneapolis, MN unanimously passed a resolution declaring Minneapolis a pollinator-friendly community and urging city residents to take steps to protect dwindling pollinator populations. A groundswell of public support from a wide range of local and national groups, including Beyond Pesticides, resulted in swift passage of the resolution, the latest in a long string of local government action to safeguard pollinators from harmful pesticides, as federal proposals fail to address the magnitude of the crisis. “With the passage of today’s resolution, Minneapolis is now doing its part in the global effort to protect and grow the pollinator populations,” Mayor Betsy Hodges said to CBS Minnesota.
The resolution, introduced and written by Councilmember Cam Gordon, assigns a number of bee safe actions to various city departments. While the Health Department’s Environmental Services Unit will maintain a list of pollinator-friendly plants, the Community Planning and Economic Development Department and Property Services Division of the City Coordinator’s office will create habitat for local pollinators. The Minneapolis Public Works Department will pursue both increased bee habitat and adopt clear guidelines against the use of pesticides, including but not limited to systemic neonicotinoid (“neonic”) insecticides, and pesticide treated plants.
In addition to polices that apply to government-owned property, the city also urges private residents and businesses to forgo the use of toxic pesticides, plant more pollinator forage on their property, and use organic or chemical-free lawn and landscaping practices. “Minnesota used to be a really amazing place to be a bee, and it isn’t anymore,” said Erin Rupp, executive director of the group Pollinate Minnesota, to KSTP.com. “Beekeepers in Minnesota this past year lost 50 percent of our hives … This is kind of a big deal, it’s an alarming number.”
“Pollinator populations are in sharp decline because of an ongoing loss of habitat coupled with a simultaneous large-scale expansion of pesticide use by homeowners, landscapers, property managers and farmers,” noted a press release from the city. “Many Minneapolis residents and businesses are already managing their land in a way that helps pollinators,” said Councilmember Gordon to the Southwest Journal. “We urge all Minneapolis property owners to plant habitat where they can and avoid pesticides that are known to kill bees.”
Like numerous other states, Minnesota is preempted from enacting an ordinance which restricts the private use of harmful pesticides. However, the city’s resolution addresses this, stating “the City of Minneapolis will continue to advocate at the State and Federal level for increased authority to address the non-agricultural use of pesticides, and for other pollinator friendly practices.” A bill currently in the Minnesota State Legislature would exempt Minnesota’s “first class cities” (including Duluth, Minneapolis, Rochester, and St. Paul) from state preemption.
“[This resolution] takes a strong stand,” said Joan Hargrave, head of local group Minneapolis Citizens for a Lawn Pesticide Ban, “[it] not only says yes to pollinator forage and organic turf management and no to neonics, but no to pesticides – which is all inclusive.” Ms. Hargrave’s group garnered over 2,750 signatures from local residents requesting the city take action on dangerous lawn care pesticides.
“The Minneapolis City Council’s Pollinator Friendly Community resolution is a huge step forward toward making Minneapolis a healthier city not only for pollinators, but also for people and their pets,” said Pat Kerrigan, retail education coordinator at Organic Consumers Association, which supported activists on the ground. “By urging citizens, businesses and institutions to support organic seed, plant and lawn care products and their producers, this resolution has the power to redirect our collective purchasing power away from international corporations, such as Monsanto and Bayer, whose product have had a devastating effect on human and environmental health.”