Managing for Pollinators on Public Lands

IM 2016-013
Instruction Memorandum

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENTWASHINGTON, D.C. 20240-0036http://www.blm.govNovember 10, 2015 In Reply Refer To:1731(220) P EMS TRANSMISSION 11/10/2015Instruction Memorandum No. 2016-013Expires:  09/30/2019 To:                   All Washington Office and Field Office OfficialsFrom:               Assistant Director, Resources and PlanningSubject:           Managing for Pollinators on Public Lands                        DD: November 30, 2015Program Area:  Forests, Rangeland, Riparian and Plant Conservation, Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Fire Planning, and Fuels Management.Purpose:  In May of 2015 the White House released a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators (Pollinator Health Task Force) hereafter referred to as the Strategy.  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) provides direction for implementation of the Strategy in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).Policy/Action:  The BLM committed to taking several actions to improve habitats for pollinators (Attachment 1) in the Department of the Interior Pollinator Protection Plan. Characteristics of healthy lands include diverse pollinator populations and a variety of native plant species (usually flowering forbs or shrubs) that provide nectar and pollen throughout the growing season.  Information in the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Ecological Site Descriptions and Range Site Descriptions, Landfire Biophysical Setting information, Ecological Systems descriptions are available on NatureServe Explorer and local NRCS Plant Materials Center publications on pollinator plants.  These publications can help to determine local pollinator friendly species for use in vegetation management projects.The BLM will begin to integrate pollinator friendly native plant species (native plant species that provide pollen and nectar) into the restoration work taking place in sage-grouse habitats, in post fire rehabilitation and stabilization seedings, fuels treatments or other projects that use seeding or seedlings.  BLM’s commitment is to use at least one pollinator friendly native plant species in all projects that include seeding treatments.  However, the long-term goal is to increase nectar containing native forbs, shrubs and trees present on the ground to ensure season long nectar and pollen availability that provides a variety of nutritional floral resources for pollinators, and ensures that diverse native forbs for other wildlife, including sage-grouse, are present on public lands. The Strategy refers to all pollinators, but along with honeybees, there is specific mention of the Monarch Butterfly.  In 2014, the Monarch was petitioned for listing under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.Actions the BLM will take to restore and maintain habitat for pollinators include:

  • Use at least one pollinator friendly native plant species in all vegetation management projects involving the use of seedings or seedlings.  Work toward the goal of providing a suite of early blooming to late blooming flowering plants to ensure that floral resources are available for pollinators throughout the growing season.
  • Implement the National Reserve of Native Seed Mixes identified in the Strategy:  Work with Seeds of Success and the implementation of the National Seed Strategy to collect those species most important for pollinators locally and increase their availability in plant materials programs.
  • Include species with high pollen and nectar resources and consider the use of native milkweed seed or plugs, especially when planning and implementing restoration projects where monarch butterflies migrate through the BLM lands to their overwintering areas in coastal California or in Mexico.
  • Check with the National Seed Warehouse to ensure the use of currently available pollinator friendly native seed.
  • Include considerations in line with other pollinator work to restore the Monarch butterfly migration to wintering grounds in Mexico or along the California Coast by providing nectar and pollen plants, as well as, native milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) in vegetation treatments and habitat improvement projects.  Coordinate with county weed programs to manage existing milkweed populations on public lands as a native plant resource, rather than as noxious weeds or undesirable species.

The Washington Office by the above stated deadline requests information from the directorates and state and center offices in two areas:

  1. The name of a person designated as pollinator contact from each directorate, state and center office for coordination and information sharing on pollinator activity and distribution of further informal instruction for implementing the Strategy.
  1. Baseline information on buildings that currently have pollinator friendly native plant landscaping as outlined in Attachment 3.

Landscaping for pollinators is one part of the Strategy, in addition to creating and restoring habitat for pollinators on public lands.  A baseline is required to report progress on increasing pollinator habitat at buildings occupied by the Department of Interior (DOI).In addition, states should consider reporting existing pollinator friendly landscaped areas through the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge website at  Use the “Institution” category as the pollinator garden type.  Also include any school or community pollinator gardens that the BLM participated in creating.Timeframe:  This policy is effective immediately.Budget Impact:  The budget impact should be minimal.  There may be additional expenses for use of pollinator friendly native forb seed, but most seed mixes used in the BLM contain forbs which will minimize expense.Background:  Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies from the environment.  The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.  In June 2014, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators Presidential Memorandum – Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators directing the Federal Government to use its research, land management, education, and public/private partnership capacities to broadly advance honey bee and other pollinator health and habitat.   This Presidential Memorandum created an interagency task force chaired by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture.  Each agency, including the DOI, began developing plans to enhance pollinator habitat on federal lands and facilities.  Leading by example and in sync with agency missions and public safety, the plans include significant expansion of the acreage and quality of pollinator habitat and to partner with state, tribal, and local governments; farmers and ranchers; corporations and small businesses; and non-governmental organizations to protect pollinators and increase the quality and amount of available pollinator habitat and forage. The National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honeybees and Other Pollinators was released by the White House on June 21, 2015.  The BLM worked with Assistant Secretary Michael Connor, Task Force Representative and the DOI Interagency Pollinator Team to create the DOI Pollinator Protection Plan included as Appendix F in the National Strategy.  Two specific tasks that BLM completed with partners were developing the Best Management Practices for Federal Lands Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices for Federal Lands (U.S. Forest Service and BLM) and the Reserve of Pollinator Friendly Native Seed Mixes, which ties to the National Seed Strategy and is included in the Department of the Interior Pollinator Protection Plan.President Obama, President Peña Nieto of Mexico, and Prime Minister Harper of Canada reached an agreement at the 2014 North American Leaders Summit to “establish a working group to ensure the conservation of the Monarch butterfly.  Secretary Jewell asked the Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ash to convene an interagency High Level Working Group (HLWG) to develop and implement a U.S. strategy for monarch conservation, coordinate our efforts with Mexico and Canada through the Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management, and ensure that the monarch strategy is coordinated with development of the Federal Pollinator Strategy and DOI assignments in the Presidential Memorandum.  The BLM Director, Neil Kornze, participated on the HLWG.  Also included in the DOI Pollinator Protection Plan are commitments to collect milkweed seed.In an unprecedented collaboration, dozens of conservation and gardening organizations joined together to form the National Pollinator Garden Network and launched a new nationwide campaign – the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.  Designed to accelerate growing efforts across America, the Network launched the Challenge on June 3, 2015, in support of the Federal Strategy.  Representatives of the Network joined First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House garden, to formally launch the Challenge.  The National Pollinator Garden Network collectively represents nearly one million active gardeners and 15,000 schoolyard gardens.  The Network is challenging the nation to reach the goal of one million additional pollinator gardens by the end of 2016.  The Network will work to provide resources for individuals, community groups, government agencies and the garden industry to create more pollinator habitat through sustainable gardening practices and conservation efforts.Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:   These requirements should be added to the Manual Section 1740, Renewable Resource Improvements and Treatments when it is updated.Coordination:  Development of this IM was coordinated among the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Division and the Fire Planning and Fuels Management Division.Contact(s):   Joe Tague, Division Chief, Forests, Rangeland, Riparian and Plant Conservation at 202-912- 7222, or Carol Spurrier, Ecologist at 202-912-7272 or .  Signed by:                                                       Authenticated by:Michael H. Tupper                                          Robert M. WilliamsActing, Assistant Director                              Division of IRM Governance,WO-860Resources and Planning  3 Attachments1- Summary of BLM Commitments (2 pp)2- Genera Containing Nectar and Pollen Plants Found in Western Plant Communities (1p)3- Outline for Reporting Baseline Information on Buildings with Pollinator Friendly Landscaping (1 p)