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National Wildlife Federation Announces Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Surpasses its Goal

Reston, VA — The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge surpassed its goal, registering 1,040,000 gardens as of December 31, 2018. This effort was launched by the National Pollinator Garden Network (NPGN) in June 2015 as a nationwide call to action to preserve and create gardens and landscapes that help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators. The goal of the challenge was to create networks of gardens to help save pollinators and ultimately our food systems.

“Planting a million pollinator gardens was an audacious goal,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “I’m proud that the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitats and our state affiliates played an essential role in achieving this important milestone. Certified habitats transform lawns and paved areas into native plant buffets, create tree canopy that reduces carbon, provide host plants for beneficial insects and butterflies, and advance sustainable practice that reduce reliance on chemicals. Together, through collaborative conservation we are restoring pollinator populations that provide the foundation of our ecosystems and our food supply.”

From tiny yards to public gardens, the million plus gardens add up to a network of approximately five million acres of enhanced or new pollinator habitat. This effort motivated approximately 8 million people to plant with purpose and shift from valuing flower gardens as solely ornamental to valuing them for both beauty and benefits to bees, butterflies, birds, and all pollinators.

The National Wildlife Federation played a critical role as a co-founder and facilitator of the National Pollinator Garden Network — one of the largest efforts in size and scale on behalf of pollinators, and the first to engage the horticultural and voluntary sector in a major role. The National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife™ participants contributed one third of the million plus gardens. Community Wildlife Habitats®, individual Butterfly Heroes™ and Trees for Wildlife™ plantings converged creating “Pollinator Gardening Hot Spots” nationwide, across the Carolinas, the Mid Atlantic, Indiana and the Southwest. Twenty of the National Wildlife Federation’s state affiliate partners promoted this planting groundswell. Mass networks of school gardens came from Schoolyard Habitats® and Eco-Schools USA campuses, and college Campus Pollinator Pledges. Leadership in over 450 municipalities enhanced and created new pollinator habitat across their towns and cities through the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge.

Research shows that these floral rich, small-scale gardens are proven to increase pollinator abundance and diversity.

“It takes approximately five flowers worth of pollen and nectar provisions to grow one baby bee to adulthood.” says Sam Droege, wildlife biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey. Each of these garden plots are like a stepping stones that help support pollinators in an ecosystem that is badly fragmented.

Why does any of this matter? One in every three bites of food we take is the direct result of a pollinator’s work. Pollination contributes $29 billion to America’s food production, according to Cornell University. But pollinator declines in recent decades have been severe due to habitat loss, parasites, pesticides, and other threats and is affecting our food sources. Despite the exciting recent news that the population of monarch butterflies that migrates through the U.S. central flyway to winter in Mexico has increased by 144 percent since last year, the western population of monarchs has crashed and recent reports of global insect declines are dire.

“We can transform the landscape for good, if each of the 35 million Americans who garden with flowers, plants at least three native, pollinator flowers this spring to guarantee three season bloom-significantly building on the million garden movement.” said Mary Phillips, senior director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program, which includes the Certified Wildlife Habitat® program, and the Native Plant Finder.

The National Wildlife Federation is committed to working with regional ecological landscaping efforts, master gardeners, native plant societies and the garden trade to advance a full-scale shift toward sustainable practices and increase native plant and seed supplies.

When we protect wildlife, we protect not only ourselves, but our nation’s conservation legacy.

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