Obama’s ‘Federal Strategy’ to Protect Bees Includes DoD, National Security Council

Penny Starr | June 23, 2014 | 2:23pm EDT
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This undated image made available by Geraldine Wright shows a honeybee visiting a coffee flower. (AP Photo/Geraldine Wright)

(CNSNews.com) – In a presidential memorandum issued on Friday, President Barack Obama announced a “federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators” with the help of agencies including the Defense Department and the National Security Council.

Pollinators such as honey bees and butterflies contribute to the economy through benefits to agricultural crops, but their numbers are declining because of a “combination of stressors,” including nutrition, habitat, parasites, diseases, pesticides and a lack of genetic diversity, the memo stated.

Obama is establishing a “Pollinator Health Task Force” to be co-chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency administrator focused on federal lands, infrastructure and buildings.

The memo detailed the role of each federal agency.

For example, the Department of Defense “shall, consistent with law and the availability of appropriations, support habitat restoration projects for pollinators, and shall direct military service installations to use, when possible, pollinator-friendly native landscaping and minimize use of pesticides harmful to pollinators through integrated vegetation and pest management practices.”

“The Environmental Protection Agency shall assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids (insecticides chemically similar to nicotine), on bee and other pollinator health and take action, as appropriate, to protect pollinators; engage State and tribal environmental, agricultural, and wildlife agencies in the development of State and tribal pollinator protection plans; encourage the incorporation of pollinator protection and habitat planting activities into green infrastructure and Superfund projects; and expedite review of registration applications for new products targeting pests harmful to pollinators,” the memo states.

The other agencies with representatives on the task force are: State Department, Department of Defense, Department of Interior, Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Domestic Policy Council, the General Services Administration, the National Science Foundation, the National Security Council staff, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology and “such executive departments, agencies and offices as the co-chairs may designate.”

The memo stated that the task force will complete the majority of the strategy in 180 days starting on June 20. That strategy will include an “action plan” that involves studying the health of native and commercial bees, expanding collection and data sharing of pollinators losses, “development of affordable seed mixes,” reducing use of pesticides and improving and restoring habitat.

“Public-private partnerships” will be developed, including consulting with “external stakeholders” such as state, tribal, and local governments, farmers, corporations and non-governmental organizations, according to the memo.

A “coordinated public education campaign aimed at individuals, corporations, small businesses, schools, libraries, and museums to significantly increase public awareness of the importance of pollinators and the steps that can be taken to protect them,” is also part of the strategy.

The memorandum does not include the cost of developing the strategy or the actions the task force will recommend.

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