Bee City USA is an initiative of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon. Bee City USA's mission is to galvanize communities to sustain pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants and free of insecticides.
The Council Bluffs Public Library led the quest for a Bee City USA affiliation by bringing local partners together and assembling a committee. The committee includes members from the Council Bluffs Public Library, Council Bluffs Parks and Recreation, Council Bluffs Mayor's Office, Pottawattamie County Conservation, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and 712 Initiative.
"We understand the importance of sustaining pollinators and aspire to make the city more pollinator-friendly," said Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh. "We are grateful to the dedicated professionals at our Public Library for bringing the Bee City opportunity to our attention."
The City of Council Bluffs hosted a ceremonial seed tossing to celebrate becoming a Bee City. On Tuesday, May 3, several City officials and local pollinator enthusiasts met at Vincent Bluff Prairie Preserve to publicly acknowledge the commitment to pollinator conservation.
“With an estimated one-third of our crops and 85% of our flowering plants dependent on pollinators to set seed and fruit, it’s impossible to over-exaggerate the importance of our native bees and pollinators,” said Theresa DeWitt, Council Bluffs Public Library Youth Services Library Assistant. “I'm very excited and proud that our city has joined with cities across the country to protect our native pollinators."
To maintain the Bee City affiliation, the City must maintain a standing committee, host public awareness activities, provide digital resources, and prepare an annual report on habitat enhancement activities. The Library and the Parks and Recreation Department have several pollinator programs, initiatives, and resources planned for 2022.
“By becoming a Bee City, Council Bluffs provides our residents the education and support needed to turn hope for the future into action right now,” said Michelle Biodrowski, Naturalist for Pottawattamie Conservation. “By adding native plants and limiting our use of pesticides, people can make a significant difference in our world. One park at a time, one yard at a time, we can return biodiversity to our urban landscape and support the organisms that help keep us healthy and alive.”
The Parks and Recreation Department is establishing pollinator landscapes and habitat corridors within the parks and trails to increase riparian native planting areas and native prairie plantings. These habitat corridors create designated areas for pollinators and increase the biodiversity within our parks. The native plantings will attract pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and beetles.
"These public plantings demonstrate how to incorporate pollinator plants in a typical landscape," said Council Bluffs Parks and Recreation Director Vincent Martorello. "Our website also provides resources for residents looking to learn which native plants and pollinators to plant at home.”
The City established the first habitat corridor at Valley View Park in 2021. The Valley View Prairie is a nine-acre native planting area encompassing three parcels. One parcel is within Valley View Park and provides public access along a newly paved trail. The other two parcels are north of Valley View Park and do not have public access. Educational signs in the park describe the importance of pollinator landscapes to the community.
Native plants beautify landscapes, add rich biodiversity to the urban habitat, and improve human connection with landscape and wildlife. Anyone wishing to plant a pollinator garden within their own landscape can find local resources, including recommended plants, trees, and shrubs, a list of vendors, and tips for successful planting on the City's website councilbluffs-ia.gov/2517.
For more information about Bee City USA, visit www.beecityusa.org.