20210222-LOC-bee

A bee gathers pollen from an aster.

The City Council has accepted a designation labeling Keene a “Bee City USA,” signifying the city’s commitment to conserving and supporting healthy habitats for pollinators.

During its Thursday meeting, held via Zoom, the council voted unanimously to approve a resolution stating that the city will take steps to create or expand pollinator friendly habitats and increase public education and outreach. The resolution was recommended by a unanimous vote of the Council’s Municipal Services, Facilities and Infrastructure Committee.

“Bee City USA is an organization that is committed to extending pollinator habitats,” Councilor Janis Manwaring, committee chairwoman, said during Thursday’s council meeting. “It is committed to the gentlest of pesticides, if they need to be used, and educating the public about the importance of pollinators in our environment.”

Manwaring said the request that Keene become a “Bee City” was first brought to the city by John Therriault, president of the Monadnock Beekeepers Association, nearly a year ago. Therriault, who has since joined the city’s Conservation Commission as an alternate member, will continue to spearhead the city’s efforts to preserve pollinator habitats. Under the resolution the Conservation Committee has been tasked with facilitating the city’s bee-related programs.

Now based in Portland, Ore., Bee City USA got its start in North Carolina in 2012 as an effort to help counteract declines in bee populations, according to the organization’s website. In 2018, it became part of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Preservation.

During the past three decades or more, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinator populations in the U.S. have suffered serious losses due to invasive pests and diseases, exposure to pesticides and other chemicals, loss of habitat, loss of species and genetic diversity, and changing climate.

Councilor Robert Williams, who is also a member of the city’s Conservation Commission, said residents should expect some pollinator projects to be announced in the spring and summer.

While none of the councilors voiced opposition to the designation, Councilor Mitch Greenwald did question one of the requirements — that a road sign be installed to advertise Keene’s status as a “Bee City USA.”

He said he has no objection to the resolution promoting sustainable habitats for pollinators, but he said the city already has too much road signage. He said Keene also has designations as a “Tree City,” a “Play City” and an “Elm City,” each of which has its own road sign.

“Let us all know that we’re a Bee City,” Greenwald said. “But we don’t have to put up road signs.”

Williams noted that, while he shares Greenwald’s concerns about road clutter, a sign advertising the “Bee City USA” status is part of the program. Williams said the sign could be placed in an attractive place where pollinators would go and where people can appreciate it.

Another requirement of the program is that the city pay a $200 fee annually. According to Councilors, Therriault has agreed to donate the first year’s fee.

According to the resolution, the city’s must provide information about its pollinator programs on its website, which will be used to report on those programs and provide information to the public.

The resolution says some programs the city could undertake include identifying areas where more pollinator-friendly plants could be installed, creating a native species list best suited to meet the needs of local pollinators, and annually tracking the area of pollinator habitats.

Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson