2018 MONARCH AND POLLINATOR FORUM
November 1, 2018, members of the Arkansas Monarch Conservation Partnership, natural resource professionals, land managers and concerned citizens gathered in Little Rock for the 2018 Arkansas Monarch and Pollinator Forum.
For several years, populations of monarch butterflies and pollinators have declined to concerning levels. With over 75% of all of our food crops pollinated by insects, this is of major concern.
To bring greater focus on the plight of the monarch butterfly and pollinators in Arkansas, the Arkansas Monarch Conservation Partnership was created in 2015. This group consists of members from state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and landowners.
This group worked diligently to produce the first Arkansas Monarch and Pollinator Conservation Plan and the plan was finalized in May 2018. The focus of the plan is to:
- set goals for monarch and pollinator habitat efforts in the state, including strengthening existing work, identifying gaps, and prioritizing actions,
- create a holistic, coordinated statewide strategy for supporting monarchs and pollinators,
- develop a collaborative effort to attract resources needed to the state’s monarch population while boosting populations of all pollinator species, and
- identify opportunities to integrate our efforts with other regional and national initiatives.
The full document can be viewed at http://arkansasmonarchs.org/arkansas-monarch-and-pollinator-conservation-plan/.
The plan has been set into motion and already making great strides in improving both the quality and quantity of pollinator habitat across the state by working with both public and private landowners. Native seeds and plants have been collected and/or sourced locally to increase nectar and host plants that pollinators need. Citizen science projects and monitoring have helped document pollinator sightings and reproduction through the season to track populations and migrations.
Use native plants to create a pollinator garden, add your sightings to the online database, limit your use of herbicides, remove invasive species to encourage native plant growth; these are just a few simple things you can do to help pollinators in Arkansas. Every little bit helps and through a concentrated effort we can all make a difference. Visit www.arkansasmonarchs.org to learn what you can do to help the monarch butterfly and other pollinators.
Free milkweed starts are available for Monarch Habitats at schools and nonprofits.
3rd Annual Arkansas Environmental POLICY Summit
On October 26 AEEA Board Members, Sarah DeVries, attended the 3rd Annual Arkansas Environmental Policy Summit. Her summary of the event is below.
What does a coal-fired power plant, dicamba spraying, hog farms in the Buffalo River Watershed, and bird habitat have in common? They were all topics discussed at the Environmental Policy Summit in North Little Rock on October 26, 2018.
The summit, organized by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, Audubon Arkansas, and the Sierra Club, provided attendees the opportunity to learn about current environmental policy, and how that policy affects the environment, economy, and people of Arkansas. The summit also included how to act on energy policy, air quality, water quality, climate change, environmental justice issues, and herbicide and pesticide usage. The speakers included representatives from environmental agencies, energy and utility offices, universities, and non-profits.
The morning keynote speaker was Bill Ritter, founder of Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy and past governor of Colorado from 2007 until 2011. He discussed how Arkansas could transform its energy policy with more knowledge. A good place to begin is utilizing websites such as www.aeltracker.org that allow you to review every state’s past, current or proposed environmental legislation. In the last year alone, 4,500 bills were proposed across the country, and only 600 bills were implemented.
Mr. Ritter shared that Arkansans can address alternative fuels and energy efficiency on the state level regardless of the national policy. For example, Colorado residents supported an increase in alternative energy use from 10% to 30%, and the current state-wide goal is 55%. He also mentioned that the Arkansas Utilities Commission had taken a step in the right direction by supporting a 1.2% reduction in total energy use. Arkansas can also follow the lead from other states, such as Wyoming’s support of clean energy infrastructure (despite being led by Republican leadership) and the implementation of net-metering similar to Massachusetts, North Carolina, or California (https://gosolargroup.com/solar-community/net-metering-policies-in-the-10-most-popular-states-for-solar/).
In light of the myriad of the summit topics, I was not able to attend all of the sessions but wanted to share information from the state environmental agency on the government transformation plan, and other ADEQ proposed policy changes. The participating state agencies shared Asa Hutchinson’s new restructuring plan (government transformation and reorganization plan), which will combine the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, the Public Service Commission, and the state Oil & Gas Commission into a new Department of Energy and Environment. The merger intends to provide greater efficiencies in the workforce, joint services, and building utility costs. Also, ADEQ will seek funding for the creation of 500 environmental officer positions. This additional workforce will be used to address illegal dumping within every county and implement a state-wide certification program for the solid waste management districts.
Some non-traditional sources of funding for addressing air quality such as the Volkswagen settlement fund were included in the discussion. ADEQ is in charge of the $14 million environmental mitigation fund that proposes to distribute funds into four areas: https://www.adeq.state.ar.us/air/planning/vw.aspx
Compressed natural gas school bus fleets: $7.9 million, the plan has not been submitted.
Electric vehicle infrastructure: The plan was submitted, and approval is expected by November 11th for $2.2 million.
Clean vehicle fuel statewide: $2.9 million, the plan was submitted and approval is expected by November 11th.
LEED for state agencies: $1.7 million, the plan was submitted and approval is expected in early 2019.
The closing address by Sarah Greenberger, the National Audubon office’s Senior Vice President, on Conservation Policy reiterated that Audubon supports national clean energy legislation because of the wide-scale impacts to bird habitat and environmental protection. Voting on November 6th is one of the best ways to support those lawmakers that advocate for clean energy policy and other environmental policy. For additional information about Audubon’s Land and Water Conservation Fund and other efforts, you can visit the www.audubon.org/takeaction.
After the summit, I reflected on the issues and realized as an AEEA board member, environmental education practitioner, advocate, and mother, I knew little about the environmental policies and practices in Arkansas. I investigated the issues, in more detail, to see if the panel speakers had adequately presented their information. As a result, I learned Arkansas is primarily dependent on coal for its energy production, and we are currently receiving the majority of our coal by rail from Wyoming. Arkansas can make the switch to clean energy (solar, wind, and geothermal). To make this switch more affordable for Arkansas households and gain the support of the utilities, there needs to be a collective voice that is large enough to influence decision makers.
Shockingly Arkansas’ per capita energy use by the residential sector is higher in Arkansas than in two-thirds of the states1. Arkansas does not have a renewable portfolio standard, but we do have an Alternative Energy commission that is tasked with the creation or expansion of various forms of alternative energy (citation: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, State and Local Policy Database, Arkansas, updated July 2017. As concerned citizens and educators, we cannot rely on the government or utilities to implement energy efficiency and alternative fuels programs without consumer support. “Hydroelectric, biomass-fueled facilities and other renewables comprise less than 10% of Arkansas’ renewable energy generation” states the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Until legislation supports an increase in alternative energy or utilities set greater targets, it is then up to us to make individual changes in our energy use. Therefore when we, decrease our overall household energy use, we decrease our dependence on coal energy, and this in turn also benefits air quality, our health, and fish populations. (https://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.php?sid=AR#82) and Durkay, Jocelyn, “State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals,” National Conference of State Legislatures (December 1, 2017).
Environmental lawsuits can bring greater attention to issues, such as the impacts of dicamba on non-intended crops and pollinators, or the Arctic National Wildlife Regulation. However, litigation and government office coordination requires a great deal of time and expense; this action does not replace the power of the vote. When constituents work together to voice their concerns, use their collective buying power, and vote lawmakers into office who will pass laws to better our environment, then bird habitats benefit, the people have cleaner air to breathe, and less pollution is received into the waters of our state.