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Pollinator Plantings in Campbell County

Butterfly on a flower. Flower

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has been a popular option for the producers in Campbell County who want to install conservation practices on their property. To date the Gillette field office had written 30 CSP contracts. This voluntary 5-year program makes annual payments to participants who agree to adopt and install certain conservation enhancements.

One of the more popular enhancements that participants have chosen is the establishment of pollinator habitat on their cropland. This enhancement requires the participant to plant ½ acre of pollinator habitat for every 40 acres of eligible cropland. The pollinator habitat areas must include a minimum of nine flowering plants species including forbs, legumes, vines, shrubs and/or trees. As a minimum the planting must consist of three early, three mid and three late flowering species from the NRCS approved list. The seeding may also contain up to 40% grass to lessen the chance of erosion.

The nine program participants that have chosen this enhancement decided to plant a mixture of grass and mostly native forbs. Typically the early season flowering plants are things like alfalfa, clover, blue flax and penstemon. Mid-season blooming forbs are usually native species like purple coneflower (Echinacea), yellow prairie coneflower, and purple prairie clover. Late season blooming plants are species such as perennial sunflower, blanket flower, Rocky Mountain bee plant and western yarrow. By next spring there will be over 66 acres of pollinator habitat seeded in Campbell County through CSP contracts.

The first pollinator habitat seeding to be established was planted by Lester and Bonnie Drake. The Drakes own and operate Ivy Creek Ranch northwest of Spotted Horse, Wyo. They raise cattle and winter wheat on the Campbell/Sheridan County line. Lester chose the pollinator habitat enhancement as a way to increase plant diversity and create a buffer for one of their fields. The Drakes chose 14 acres of lower producing sandy soil on the uphill side of a wheat field to create a permanent vegetative buffer of pollinator habitat.  The area was seeded in the spring of 2011. The Drakes observed six of the flowering species the first year and all nine of the flowering plants in 2012. They have also seen an increase of butterflies and other insects in the general area. Lester and Bonnie are pleased with the success to the planting and the benefits it has added to their ranch.

Pollinators play an important role in our environment and agricultural industry. Animal pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, beetles, bats and hummingbirds. In addition to supporting pollinators, native plant habitat will attract beneficial insects that feed on crop pests and lessen the need for pesticides. Pollinator habitat provides habitat for other wildlife and can serve as windbreaks, help stabilize the soil, improve water quality and create more scenic vistas.

The establishment of pollinator habitat through CSP has proven to be a win-win situation for both the producers and NRCS in Campbell County.

For more information about planting pollinator habitat in Wyoming please visit: http://efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov/references/public/WY/wypm17_Pollinators.pdf

For more information about CSP, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and other financial assistance programs the Wyoming NRCS offers please visit: http://www.wy.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/  or find your nearest Wyoming NRCS Field Office at: http://www.wy.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/index.html