Abandoned landfills and private landowners provide hope for pollinators!

Katie with seeds

Katie Kain is a biologist at the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Vermont. Photo credit: USFWS

It’s pollinator season, and this week we are honoring these hard working animals that pollinate the flowers and plants we often take for granted. Today, Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist Katie Kain shares her story on two projects that restored critical habitat for these small, but mighty animals.

Buckwheat plant

A buckwheat plant is visited by a well know pollinator. Photo credit: USFWS

Did you know that more than 75 percent of all flowering plants are pollinated by animals? That includes plants that produce foods we love to eat, such as apples, almonds, honey, tomatoes and even chocolate!

But unfortunately many of the animals we rely on to pollinate are declining in numbers, and losing critical habitat for survival.

The landfill in Burlington prior to preparing and seeding the site for restoration. Photo credit: USFWS

The landfill in Burlington, Vermont prior to preparing and seeding the site for restoration. Photo credit: USFWS

This is where the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is stepping in to help turn this trend around, and work with private landowners to create habitat that many pollinators need to thrive and survive.

Preparing the landfill for pollinator seed planting. Photo Credit: USFWS

Preparing the landfill for pollinator seed planting. Photo Credit: USFWS

Service staff at the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Vermont worked with the city of Burlington to convert an abandoned and grass capped landfill into a blooming sea of flowers and plants that would attract a variety of pollinator species, including the declining monarch butterfly. In addition, we worked with a private landowner and a local watershed organization, the Friends of Winooski River, in the state’s capital of Montpelier to create a riparian buffer planting on the landowner’s property.

These enthusiastic students helped prepare and seed the area, while also learning something about the importance of pollinators. Photo credit: USFWS

These enthusiastic students helped prepare and seed the area, while also learning something about the importance of pollinators. Photo credit: USFWS

Our team of wildlife biologists, along with student volunteers from nearby schools, began the projects with site preparations such as tilling and plowing the area to remove the existing sod layer. Next we seeded the area with a mix of native pollinator plant species, as well as a cover crop of buckwheat. When used as a cover crop, the buckwheat helps suppress weeds, increases soil organic matter and improves soil nutrients. And even though it is not a native species it is known to attract pollinators. By next season, the perennial native plants will have become solidly established and will provide a diverse array of plants to attract pollinators.

The buckwheat cover crop at the landfill after planting. Photo credit: USFWS

The buckwheat cover crop at the landfill after planting. Photo credit: USFWS

The field at the abandoned landfill sits adjacent to a well-used city bike path and will be enjoyed by many local residents and pollinators for year to come. Plans are already in the works to restore another section of the landfill in coming months.

Volunteers helping to plant seeds in the riparian area. Photo credit: USFWS

Volunteers helping to plant seeds in the riparian area. Photo credit: USFWS

As for the riparian location, we were fortunate enough to work with a landowner whose interest in pollinators allowed us to modify the restoration plans to incorporate trees, shrubs and other plants that provide high quality pollinator habitat. The landowners are so pleased with the results that they promote the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program with other interested landowners. In Vermont alone, the program has restored 225 acres of wetland habitat and 43 acres of upland habitat in 2015.

A monarch butterfly finds a buckwheat plant in the newly restored pollinator habitat. Photo credit: USFWS

A monarch butterfly finds a buckwheat plant in the newly restored pollinator habitat. Photo credit: USFWS

As we do with all our restoration projects, we will continue to monitor both these sites to determine the level of success in attracting pollinator species and refine methods for future, similar projects.

Learn more about pollinators.

Learn more about the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office.

Learn more about the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

One Comment on “Abandoned landfills and private landowners provide hope for pollinators!

  1. I love the picture of the Monarch butterfly on the flower. An old landfill turned into a beautiful spot.

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