Will state policies predict national action to protect pollinators?

By Matt Kelly

One thing I’ve enjoyed tracking and following this year is the seemingly increasing number of state-level initiatives to protect bee and insect populations. The Saving America’s Pollinators Act is a bill that’s been introduced several different times at the federal level but has, once again, stalled out in committee. The current national political conditions seem much more conducive to state and local actions when it comes to taking bees and other insects into consideration.

Earlier this year, Damon Hall and Rebecca Steiner published a paper cataloging and analyzing the policy innovations that have been introduced at the “subnational” level in the United States. Most interesting to me in this paper is the categorization and quantification of the various policies enacted. Based on the state-by-state results that Hall and Steiner present, our country looks something like this:

Map showing pollinator policies by state.
Chart showing pollinator policies by state, by category.

Minnesota clearly stands out as the most pollinator-friendly state, given its focus on actions such as creating habitat, addressing pesticides and encouraging research. The state’s payment assistance to homeowners to convert their yards into habitat is the only program like this that I’m currently aware of in the United States. And the continued attention being given to the rusty-patched bumble bee might be an indication of the positive impact that Minnesota’s efforts are potentially having.

Hall and Steiner provide some encouraging analysis and thoughts at the end of their paper: In a politically divided nation, state legislatures across the spectrum have passed 110 “pollinator relevant” laws over the past 17 years. “These laws,” write the authors, “represent legal trends as well as piloted policy actions that constitute political common ground for lateral and vertical policy transfers as templates for future laws.” In others words, the growing appeal and passage of state-level pollinator policies set the foundation for national action.

One day – perhaps soon – the Saving America’s Pollinators Act might make it out of committee and receive the national attention it so rightly deserves.