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NYPA implements statewide pollinator protection initiative to reinforce natural habitats

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Mon, Oct 21st 2019 03:15 pm

Plantings at power projects and along transmission lines to promote pollination

The New York Power Authority, the largest state public power organization in the nation, has launched a statewide pollinator initiative that will help achieve goals outlined in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s 2016 pollinator protection plan, a plan to conserve and expand wild native species that pollinate local crops.

As a steward of large areas of land due to its 16 generating facilities and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines, NYPA is taking steps to reestablish pollinator habitats at the Niagara Power Project and other facilities across New York. NYPA will introduce pollinator gardens, reestablish natural regrowth in selected meadows, and encourage responsible relocation when dealing with pollinator colonies. This initiative continues NYPA’s work in promoting pollinators along its transmission line rights of way for more than 25 years as part of its integrated vegetation management strategy.

“We recognized that, by replanting the Niagara Power Vista garden with the correct species, we could contribute to Gov. Cuomo’s pollinator protection plan,” said Patrick Holden, an environmental scientist in NYPA’s environment, health and safety department.

Pollinator species are in crisis worldwide, including in this state. In recent years, managed pollinator colonies in New York have experienced a decline of 50% to 70%. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo responded to the decline in pollinators with the 2016 New York state pollinator protection plan, which lays out best management practices for colonies of pollinators, efforts for habitat enhancement, methods for research and monitoring, and plans for public education and outreach. NYPA’s efforts are coordinated with the recommendations and objectives of this plan.

Pollinating animals include bees, butterflies, insects, birds and even some mammals such as bats that make repeated trips to fruits and flowers over the course of these plants’ growth. A large number of the state’s leading crops rely on pollinators, including strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins and New York’s famous apples. Across the U.S., pollinators help generate over $15 billion per year in revenue.

The pollinator habitats at NYPA’s Niagara Power Project started as part of an initiative to beautify the patio of the Niagara Power Vista visitors center by adding a garden.

The development of the garden is broken up into two phases. In the first phase, more than 250 of pollinators’ favorite blooms were introduced to the patio in time to be enjoyed from June 17-23 during Pollinator Week 2019. The second phase, which will be completed in early 2020, will introduce up to 5,000 plants to the garden behind the patio. It is expected to be in full bloom by Pollinator Week 2020.The initiative will expand to incorporate the planting of natural meadows with pollinator-friendly blooms at Niagara and other selected facilities across the state.

“Beyond planting the garden on the patio of the Niagara Power Plant visitor center, we’re also reestablishing natural regrowth in several meadows around the facility,” said Norman Shafto, a project analyst in NYPA’s sustainability department. “This builds on what NYPA has already done with integrated vegetation management along its transmission line rights of way.”

Working closely with Lewis Payne, manager of ROW/environmental, Shafto and Holden identified several grassy locations, which have been mowed for the past 30 years, for conversion to meadows around the state – including eight acres at the Niagara facility. The new meadows will host a wide variety of native plants favored by pollinators, also saving time, cost and resources for NYPA. It is expected the meadows will take two to three years to fully establish themselves, but that benefits to local pollinators and NYPA should be immediate.

“We also plan to include walkways through the meadows with signage,” Shafto said. “We worked closely with general maintenance superintendent Michael Asklar, general maintenance supervisor Kenneth Burgio, and the rest of their team. They provided the soil, heavy equipment and labor that made this all possible. Ultimately, these efforts will help make our visitors center a showcase to raise pollinator awareness while educating the public about NYPA’s role as a power provider, land manager and environmental steward.”

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