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Schools Receive Pollinator Habitat Grants
Minnesota Ag Connection - 03/03/2021

Imperiled insect pollinators and monarch butterflies will get some help from high school students this year.

Sand County Foundation is awarding pollinator habitat grants to agriculture and science programs at five high schools.

Each school will receive native wildflower seedlings, a training webinar and consultation, and $1,000 for the school district or FFA chapter to offset project expenses.

The selected schools are:

- Bay Port High School, Brown County, Wis.

- Kiel High School, Manitowoc County, Wis.

- Lodi High School, Columbia County, Wis.

- Mesabi East Schools, St. Louis County, Minn.

- Riverdale High School, Grant County, Wis.

An additional 10 schools in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa will complete projects they were forced to postpone after receiving grants in early 2020, due to the pandemic.

"Our objective is to engage students in adding native wildflower diversity to the agricultural landscape for the benefit of pollinators," said Craig Ficenec, Sand County Foundation Program Director. "Pollinators are essential for crop pollination and ecological diversity, but the numbers of wild bees, honey bees and monarch butterflies have dropped, partly because of the loss of native wildflower habitat near farmland."

To qualify for the grants, schools need greenhouses or suitable indoor growing areas to raise the nearly 600 seedlings of milkweed, prairie blazing star, wild bergamot, and other species they will receive in March. They are also required to identify a location to transplant these native wildflowers in the spring, and tend to them through the summer.

"For transplanting, we encouraged applicants to find a site on or near agricultural land," Ficenec said.

"From the interest in this program it's clear that teachers, students and landowners in the Midwest care about the plight of pollinators and monarchs," he added.

Pollinator habitat grant program sponsors include: Enel Green Power, Syngenta and Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.

In addition to the grant program, all teachers can access a Pollinator Habitat Curriculum Guide developed through a partnership between Sand County Foundation and Earth Partnership at the University of Wisconsin. The guide's 28 activities, aligned with state and national education standards, engage students in planning, establishing, managing and monitoring prairie habitat for insect pollinators and grassland birds. The guide is available for free download at https://bit.ly/2JHdq1u.

Sand County Foundation is a national non-profit that champions voluntary conservation practices by farmers, ranchers and forestland owners to improve soil, water and wildlife habitat.


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