Thursday, March 3, 2022

Council Approves Certification of Austin as an Official Bee City USA Affiliate

Council Member Leslie Pool’s and Council Member Vanessa Fuentes’ resolution supporting the certification of Austin as an official Bee City USA affiliate was approved unanimously by the Austin City Council today.
 
Pool’s and Fuentes’ resolution, co-sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter and Council Member Kathie Tovo, amplifies the work of the Austin Parks & Recreation Department staff and the community to protect Austin’s bees and other pollinators and enhance their natural environment.
 
The Bee City USA application was initiated over two years ago by a coalition of Parks staff and community experts to develop a work plan to meet the obligations of the Xerces Society’s certification program.
 
“We need to be reminded of our responsibility to protect some of the smallest and most important members of our local wildlife,” said CM Pool. “Being a Bee City will help educate our community that pollinators are essential to a healthy ecology and frankly, to our survival.”
 
“Becoming a Bee City is another step Austin is taking in its commitment to protect our environment,” said CM Vanessa Fuentes. “With pollinator populations declining as a result of habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change, this designation not only supports conservation, it raises awareness to the urgency of protecting the species which keep our ecosystems intact.”
 
The program goal for Austin is to protect and provide healthy native habitats to pollinators on public and private lands. Pollinators, including native bees and introduced honey bees are responsible for the reproduction of almost 90% of the world’s flowering plants, including many fruits, nuts, and vegetables.
 
“We are dependent on native bees and introduced honey bees to pollinate many of the local flowering plants, including fruits and vegetables,” said Jessica Gilzow, Cultural and Arts Program Manager with PARD. “We are committed to providing pollinator habitat because healthier ecosystems for pollinators means a healthier community.”
 
PARD staff are joined in the certification effort by Pollinate Austin, a coalition with members that include Travis County Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, Texas Student PIRG, Bat Conservation International, Raise Design Studio, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Desert Door Texas Sotol, Wild Spirit Wild Places, and Me and the Bees Lemonade.
 
“I am so proud that Austin has chosen to become a Bee City,” said Rachel Raise, Co-Founder of Raise Design Studio, a member of the Pollinate Austin coalition. “It shows that we are prioritizing the protection of a species vital for our ecosystem and upholding our values of biodiversity and a sustainable future.”
 
Bees are a keystone species that ecosystems and communities depend on for food, pollination, and pest resistance. This step towards creating more bee habitat reflects Austin’s values,” MPT Alter emphasized. “Our new status as a bee-friendly city would not be possible without the hard work of Austin Parks and Recreation staff, and our community partners in Pollinate Austin.”
 
“Bee City is part of the City’s continued commitment to promoting healthier ecosystems,” said CM Tovo. “I’m particularly excited that a little later this Spring, Austin’s children and families will be able to enjoy the fascinating bee hive display at the Austin Nature & Science Center that is coming as part of this effort.”
 
The passage of the resolution supporting the certification of Austin as an official Bee City kicks off a series of Spring 2022 community activities focused on habitat installations for bees and other pollinators. This Saturday, March 5, Pollinate Austin will install bee and bat pollinator gardens at the Austin Nature & Science Center followed by an educational speaker at 1:30 p.m. to share with other community members how they can create pollinator habitats in their own yards.
 
For more information about this and other upcoming events, contact Jessica.Gilzow@austintexas.gov

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