Deerfield, Shutesbury among 5 towns seeking members for pollinator committees

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 09-12-2023 4:32 PM

As Deerfield and Shutesbury, along with three other towns, continue to build and implement pollinator habitat corridor plans, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments is issuing a call for the public to get involved.

Residents are encouraged to help their respective towns become more pollinator-friendly by joining ad hoc pollinator committees, which are intended to work with their towns to create pollinator habitats and review town and zoning bylaws. In addition to Deerfield and Shutesbury, the three other towns are Ashfield, Buckland and Colrain.

FRCOG Land Use and Natural Resources Program Manager Kimberly Noake MacPhee said their goal is to recruit residents with an interest in pollinators, as well as highway department, conservation commission and planning board members because of their direct involvement in pollinator-friendly projects.

“We’ll develop some recommended updates to the zoning bylaw that would provide protection and encourage the creation of pollinator habitat in new development and redevelopment projects,” Noake MacPhee said.

Last year, FRCOG received a $50,000 grant from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to help fund projects supporting pollinators in the five towns, including reviewing land-use regulations that could better facilitate pollinator movement around the county.

While these towns begin their work, Noake MacPhee said the “Phase 1” communities of Greenfield, Wendell, Montague, Conway, Shelburne and Orange recently met to provide FRCOG with updates on the work they’ve done. One example she highlighted was public pollinator gardens on town property.

“There’s a lot of great work that is going on out there,” she said. “We hope with our project that we can build on that and bring more interested people into the discussion.”

Pollinator committees in Deerfield and Shutesbury will collaborate with FRCOG on mapping pollinator habitats, developing pollinator-friendly landscape management practices and land-use regulations, and creating a conceptual pollinator habitat design for a town property.

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Noake MacPhee said native pollinators, such as bees, moths, flies and hummingbirds, are “keystone species” in an ecosystem. Without them, invasive or non-native species become more abundant in the environment, which can then affect other native species.

“Native plants that rely on pollinators for their propagation are important to a healthy and climate-resilient landscape,” she explained. “They’re very important to that web of life.”

Residents who are interested in joining their town’s pollinator committee should contact their town administrator. FRCOG expects meetings to be held later this summer. The grant funding expires June 30, 2024.

“We do have a limited amount of time,” she said, “and we’re really revved up and ready to go if we can get these committees together.”

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