Marcie Forsberg is a professional gardener and an amateur beekeeper. In total, she tends to seven hives in her yard in Stillwater and on property in northern Wisconsin.
“I’m outside all the time … and I really notice what a difference it makes” when people use pesticides, Forsberg said. “The yards become virtual dead zones.”
Those dead zones are part of the reason Forsberg, who is co-president of the Pollinator Friendly Alliance, and other group members introduced a resolution before the Stillwater City Council last fall calling for the city to stop using pollinator-harming pesticides and begin planting gardens to attract pollinators to its parks.
The council approved the measure earlier this month.
“We’re taking action now because we have to before the pollinators are all gone,” said Laurie Schneider, co-president of the alliance.
Pollinators include honeybees, butterflies, moths and wasps. Since 2007, the population of honeybees has decreased by more than 30 percent each year, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Researchers have linked the use of neonicotinoids, one of the most widely used insecticides in the world, to disappearing honeybees.
Stillwater is one of several metro cities to recently pledge to become bee-friendly. Shorewood, St. Louis Park, Lake Elmo and Andover have made such commitments. Woodbury is expected to do so soon.
“We caught wind of what Stillwater was doing,” said Mike Adams, Woodbury’s assistant parks and recreation director. “It fits with our city’s mission — we do have an environmental focus as part of that.”
Schneider said the alliance is pushing for such resolutions because “people are really ready in their communities to be done with these pesticides.”
Members of the alliance will plant native plants and flowers in city gardens throughout Stillwater, Forsberg said. So far, officials have approved three of the seven garden locations, including Northland Park, Ramsey Grove Park and Triangle Park, she said.
The city is providing the land and a bit of maintenance, but most of the work is being coordinated by alliance members and volunteers, Schneider said.
The public works department has used neonicotinoid insecticides only once in the past two years, said Shawn Sanders, Stillwater’s director of public works. Sanders said the city will also plant pollinator-friendly plants in the pots that line downtown Stillwater.
The city “didn’t use a lot anyway, but now they’ve formally come out,” Schneider said of the pesticides.
The resolution also asks that city officials educate residents on the subject and why pollination is in decline.
“We’re hoping to get the city involved in pushing the education of this issue,” Forsberg said. Alliance members also have spoken at rotary and garden clubs.
Because the measures in several cities, including Stillwater, are resolutions of intent and not binding ordinances, the alliance is discussing ways to hold city officials accountable.
“If it doesn’t seem like they’re kind of sticking to the resolution, then we’ll have to go further and get an ordinance,” Forsberg said. “But at this point we’re just going to hope it all works.”
The Stillwater resolution also requests that the city publish an annual progress report to send to state officials.
Council Member Dave Junker said the resolution is a citywide initiative, and requires cooperation from several city departments.
The resolution will provide “safer, cleaner pesticides that truly don’t harm our pollinators, our water quality and our soil,” Junker said.
Blair Emerson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune