Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ontario's Pollinator Health Action Plan: Looking good.

We have now had the time to look over the recently released, Ontario Pollinator Health Action Plan and we like what we see.

This plan is part of the province's broader Pollinator Health Strategy (PHS), that was launched in November 2014. At the time, the Ontario government highlighted two aspirational targets:

  • To reduce overwinter mortality rates for managed honey bees to 15 per cent by 2020.
  • To achieve an 80 per cent reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 2017.

In 2016, a third aspirational target has been added:

To restore, enhance and protect one million acres of pollinator habitat in Ontario (timelines to be determined by the Habitat Committee).

The Ontario Pollinator Health Action Plan (OPHAP) is designed to help improve the health of all insect pollinators which supports a strong agri-food sector and a healthy environment.

The plan builds in actions, timelines and accountability. It is designed to be adaptive and can be adjusted as new, evidence-based research becomes available.

The plan welcomes the involvement and collaboration of organizations and groups. Our Hamilton Pollinator Paradise Project is proud to have been included in the list of stakeholders working for pollinator health!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Seasons Greetings! Upcoming Events.

Well, here we are, approaching the end of another awesome year of planting and promoting pollinator habitat and conservation.

We have enjoyed every moment of it! The enthusiasm that this project generates demonstrates that Hamiltonians really understand the importance of biodiversity and building habitat across the city.

We held many events, such as design workshops, plantings, plant sales, our annual forum, and more.

We partnered with many groups and organizations such as schools, faith communities, Parks and Recreation, CityHousing, and we plan to do even more of this in the new year.

In June, we launched the first ever, Hamilton Monarch Awards in partnership with a few other local groups, participated in Carolinian Canada's Restoring Resilience Conference in October, and were included in many publications and media.

Many of you certified your pollinator friendly garden with our free Certification Program, and received a free lawn sign that encourages others in the neighbourhood to view your garden as beneficial for nature (and maybe, do the same!). You can view our pollinator paradise map here.

Now, we are gearing up for another year of involving more people in building a pollinator corridor across Hamilton.

We already have a line up of upcoming events, starting in January with our bee-nest box building workshop, so please do check out our listings.

We are always interested in hearing from you about your pollinator garden experience, tips and tricks, concerns and so on, so please feel free to drop us a line or a photo! Until next year!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Including pollinator-friendly, native species plants in school gardens.

Central School, Hamilton.
As non profit groups, working towards the health of our environment and our community, we are delighted to learn about the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) Outdoor Manual to help guide schools in improving their outdoor spaces.

The importance of engaging children in and bringing children closer to the natural world cannot be over-stated.

Nature is health and well being, and connection to the outdoor world not only improves physical and mental strength, but also, nurtures the love of our fellow creatures and the wonder of the natural world itself.

Unfortunately, many of these small critters are in danger. Pollinator populations such as beneficial insects, solitary bees, butterflies and small birds are declining rapidly. The loss of habitat, the use of harmful pesticides, climate change are some reasons for this decline. But it turns out that urban centres can help towards this conservation problem in ways that have been overlooked. Planting native plant species in gardens across a city is of extreme help, and the beauty is, everyone can participate in this since pollinators do not require a lot of space to carry out their functions.

A schoolyard is a perfect environment in which to plant a pollinator-friendly garden. Children reap the benefits of observing the creatures the gardens will attract. Native plant species are also very low maintenance, once they are established and require far less water than traditional ornamental gardens that contribute very little towards pollinator food.

On looking over the current plant list in the Outdoor Manual, we've noted very few native plant species. As well, we have noticed that some plants on the list are also invasive plants (not native to the area) that cause harm to our local habitat by competing for resources and space.

As such, we've let the HWDSB folks know that amending this list so that the selections add both biodiversity and educational value to school sites would be a simple matter.

Not only are we and other local nature groups available to assist, but there are also many people (including a number of Board parents) in this community who have this expertise and who would be very happy to help with a suggested list of species to use.

There are numerous resources such as Peel Region's "Digging" manual and examples that showcase what gardening for nature looks like (for instance, Central School on Hunter Street is one excellent model).

We have urged them to plan the gardens to include large numbers of native plant species and contribute significantly to the wellbeing of pollinators. We've let them know that we are available to help.