BPA’s Pollinator Working Group supports the agency’s commitment to environmental stewardship through awareness, education and application of sustainable practices that help maintain pollinator populations in the Pacific Northwest.
The Bonneville Power Administration’s Pollinator Working Group is one of the teams dedicated to upholding the agency’s commitment to environmental stewardship. This team is dedicated to protecting and increasing habitat for bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinator species throughout the agency’s 300,000 square-mile service territory.
Part of the team’s role at BPA is serving as a clearinghouse for information on native plant species and arranging specialized training for environmental compliance staff and field workers on pollinator protection. The group’s work extends to supporting BPA staff who manage rights-of-way and substations, and BPA’s Fish and Wildlife program and partners working on environmental restoration projects. Added bonus: These efforts also benefit other wildlife and the ecosystem as a whole.
The members of the pollinator group stay busy educating themselves, their colleagues and others about pollinators and their habitats. Through BPA’s founding membership in the Electric Power Research Institute’s Power-in-Pollinators Initiative, the pollinator group has access to extensive resources.
“Continued learning is an important component of our group,” said Nancy Wittpenn, environmental protection specialist. “We have access to the latest research on pollinators, we learn how other utilities and power companies are addressing the challenges pollinators face, and learn about other practices and tools that are being developed that can potentially benefit both our Transmission and Environment, Fish and Wildlife programs.”
Wittpenn and her colleagues take what they learn and share information on everything from how BPA can institute strategies to maintain and improve pollinators’ habitat and food sources, to tips for co-workers on how to grow and maintain gardens at home that attract and support these critical species. We talked to the team to get the buzz on how their work supports BPA’s commitment to environmental stewardship.
Five questions for the team
How does your work group or office support BPA’s mission and strategy?
Our work truly embodies BPA’s core value of trustworthy stewardship, and we encourage cost management and operational efficiency in line with the agency’s 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. By following vegetation management best practices, for example, we can maintain healthy plant and animal communities along our rights-of-way while increasing the reliability of BPA’s transmission system. Our work also supports the Sustainability Office and has been featured prominently in past BPA Sustainability Reports.
What is this team’s biggest priority? "I fully believe that the Pollinator Working Group efforts have the potential to leverage expertise from across the agency to do valuable things for resources and the environment."
Rosemary Mazaika, Supervisory Environmental Protection Specialist
This year, our biggest priority has been creating best management practices to guide the work employees do in support of BPA’s Transmission Services and Environment, Fish and Wildlife program. We strongly advocate for sustainable practices that recognize how important pollinators are to the overall health of our ecosystem; we encourage and support the use of integrated vegetation management; and we encourage adaptive management on fish and wildlife restoration sites to yield maximum benefits.
What makes this team successful?
Support from BPA management has enabled us to pursue our goals and make significant progress toward educating ourselves and others about the importance of pollinators and their habitat. We’ve been able to develop materials and protocols that will direct BPA’s actions and behaviors now and into the future.
Another key to our success has been collaboration with other public agencies. For example, we are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop practices for the protection of threatened and endangered butterflies along BPA rights-of-way, working with the U.S. Forest Service to develop seed mixes that support pollinators for our projects on USFS land, and continuing to work with Portland’s Restore Forest Park initiative to control invasive species on our rights-of-way and to promote pollinator habitat.
What are this team’s biggest challenges and how do you tackle them? "I am proud to encourage pollinator habitat and to support the cross-agency effort for maximum economic and ecosystem benefits throughout the region."
Tabath Rood, Fish and Wildlife Administrator
Our biggest challenge is finding the time to learn more about pollinators and their habitat and developing all of our ideas into products for agency use. The diversity of our group lends itself well to generating lots of great ideas, but we have more ideas than time. We keep a running to-do list and hope that continued management support will allow us to pursue these ideas into the future to benefit pollinators and the agency.
If your team had a superpower, what would it be?
“Buzz pollination” to help us get our work done more efficiently! Some bees, mostly solitary bees, use a specialized technique of flapping their wings rapidly to dislodge pollen that is firmly attached to the anthers of certain flowers. This specialized adaptation creates a symbiotic relationship with specific plants, including potatoes, tomatoes, blueberries and cranberries. Unlike our native bees, honey bees do not perform buzz pollination services and can’t work in the cold and rain, which is one of the many reasons why it is important to protect native bee populations.
Pollinator Fast Facts
· According to the Xerces Society, loss of diverse floral resources is one of the reasons pollinators are experiencing an alarming decline globally.
· Pollinators directly contribute to more than one of every three bites of food we eat or beverages we drink.
· Many wildlife species (including bears and birds) rely on the fruits and other parts of pollinated plants as their primary food source.
· It's not just bees doing all the work: butterflies, birds, beetles, bats, wasps and even flies are valuable pollination contributors.
· BPA was the first federal power marketing agency to receive accreditation for its use of integrated vegetation management from the Right-of-Way Stewardship Council in 2014.