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Volunteers Win National Honors for Enhancing Pollinator Habitat

By Sylvia Rainford

– Earth Team Volunteers Pam Winegarden and Ralph Cooley plant vegetables that rely on pollinators in  raised beds at the Pollinator Pathway interactive educational display at the Jennings County Fairgrounds.

Earth Team Volunteers Pam Winegarden and Ralph Cooley plant vegetables that rely on pollinators in  raised beds at the Pollinator Pathway interactive educational display at the Jennings County Fairgrounds.

April 26, 2017 - Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds, bats and many other critters.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service celebrates National Volunteer Week by honoring pollinator habitat heroes: Kristi D’Agati of Ronan, Montana; and the Jennings County Pollinator Committee of North Vernon, Indiana. D’Agati and several members of the Jennings County Pollinator Committee serve as volunteers for Earth Team, NRCS’ official volunteer program. Earth Team volunteers work with career NRCS employees and help the agency on the land, in the community and in the office.

Both D’Agati and the Earth Team members of the Jennings County Pollinator Committee have performed stellar work in increasing pollinator habitat and have received national, regional and state honors.

D’Agati has donated more than 1,100 hours this past year to help with pollinator outreach and education and establish pollinator habitat in and around Lake County, Montana. She has completed numerous community presentations and assisted in the establishment of more than 70 local pollinator plantings on private lands in the county. With the local NRCS office and the county conservation district, D’Agati helped landowners establish their own free pollinator plots. In addition, she and other volunteers helped to restore a portion of a stream by planting more than 200 willow cuttings. She also has helped to vegetate county wetland easements by planting pollinator-friendly seeds and monitored their impacts.

D’Agati has carried out field trials to help county farmers find low-cost, workable solutions to common, local natural resource issues and enhance pollinator habitat. She has carried out five field trials on 12 ranches and seeded 37 plots covering 90 acres.

“Without Kristi’s involvement, none of the studies would have been possible,” said Ben Montgomery, district conservationist in NRCS’s Ronan Field Office. “The value of these studies will be long-lived and will lay the groundwork for future work in conservation.” Montgomery recommended D’Agati for the award.

NRCS honors the Jennings County Pollinator Committee members for educating people in rural and urban communities about the importance of pollinators and encouraging these communities to take steps to protect and restore pollinator habitat.

Eleven Earth Team volunteers donated 360 hours to help with planning and implementing the committee’s goals and objectives. Accomplishments include distributing 1,500 packages of free pollinator-friendly seeds to local landowners. Areas within select locations, such as parks, an agricultural center, school gardens and a state forest, were planted with pollinator-friendly seed mixes. The Jennings County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Pollinator Field Day attracted more than 120 participants. A plant sale resulted the creation of more than 130 new pollinator habitats and funded the construction of a $12,000 pollinator pathway at the Jennings County Fairgrounds.

The actions of D’Agati and the Jennings County Pollinator Committee support the agency’s Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project, which encourages the creation and enhancement of pollinator habitat nationwide.

 

Created in 1985, the Earth Team has helped NRCS extend its resources nationwide. In fiscal year 2016, about 28,500 volunteers donated 302,219 hours of service valued at $7.1 million to NRCS. Activities include conservation education; conservation practice implementation; conservation planning and technical assistance; and outreach and communications. Sixty percent of NRCS’s offices use the Earth Team.

For information about NRCS’s Earth Team, please visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/EarthTeam. For NRCS publications about pollinators or other conservation programs and sevices, please contact the NRCS Distribution Center at nrcsdistributioncenter@ia.usda.gov or call 888-526-3227.