Creating a Sustainable Habitat for Local Pollinators
, Tulsa District
In recent years, there has been a strong decline in pollinator populations across the region. Pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and birds support a healthy ecosystem that is vital for the survival of several animal and plant species. These pollinators feed on the nectar from flowering plants and distribute pollen to the next flower, fertilizing the plants. Without the help of pollinators, fertilization doesn’t happen since most plants do not fertilize themselves.
Bees and other animal pollinators face many challenges in the modern world. Habitat loss, disease, parasites, and environmental contaminants have all contributed to the decline of many species of pollinators. Pollinators that can’t find the right quantity or quality of food don’t survive. Right now, there simply aren’t enough pollinator-friendly plantings to support pollinators.
The federal government has acted through the “National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honeybees and Other Pollinators” plan and this includes the “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [USACE] Pollinator Protection Plan.” The “USACE Pollinator Protection Plan” stipulates the increase of awareness and education and the incorporation of conservation and best management practices for pollinator health on the lands and waters that it manages as appropriate.
Bumblebee in action, enjoying the flowers at one of the pollinator fields on Oolagah Lake, Oklahoma.
PHOTO BY ERIC BONNELL
In the Tulsa District, several projects are incorporating habitat restoration in their daily operations by planting pollinator fields throughout their projects to support and increase pollinator populations in the area. These include Kaw Lake, Oolagah Lake, Keystone Lake, and Fort Gibson Lake. These are located in Tulsa District’s eastern and northern areas of operation.
At Kaw Lake, work began a few years ago when Lake Manager Peat Robinson and Assistance Lake Manager Dakota Allison developed a partnership with Phillips 66 and accomplished various projects around the lake.
“One project was the pollinator fields that were established by their overlook and Osage cove area,” said Raef Perryman, an environ mental specialist for the northern area. “In total, they have developed approximately 8 acres of wildflower fields.”
Oolagah Lake staff is currently in its second year of managing pollinator fields. Native wildflower seed was planted to provide ideal habitat for pollinators during different months of the year. “This year we planted 11 acres of pollinator fields, which were funded by IIJA [the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2022]. We used a native wildflower seed mix for all the fields,” said Eric Bonnell, Oolagah Lake manager. “Last year we planted about 3 acres, which included a fall food plot of crimson clover. The crimson clover serves as a food source for wildlife and blooms in the spring to create prime pollinators.”
The seed mix used this year takes about two-three years to become a mature pollinator field and will be tracked yearly for progress.
Fort Gibson Lake noticed the demand for local habitat restoration and began planning for pollinator plots on its project. This plan began back in 2020 and employees have now successfully planted more than 7 acres of pollinator fields at one of their public use areas.
“These fields will not only help in supplying suitable habitat for pollinators, but they are also a great educational tool for people visiting our project,” said Gregg Moydell, a natural resources specialist. Fort Gibson Lake staff is currently working on securing interpretive signage to place around these fields for visitors to learn about the importance of maintaining the natural state of wildlife habitat.
Fort Gibson Lake has also started a new project and has partnered with local Boy Scout groups to build and install bat houses around the project. “We are hoping that with installing bat houses near the new pollinator fields, we will have ... more accessibility to suitable habitat for bats,” said natural resources specialist Joshua Glazebrook.
Many people hear the word pollinator and think of bees, but there are several different species of pollinators that these projects are helping. Not only will the habitat restoration help the bees, but restoring these habitats will also aid in the current decline of bat, butterfly, and bird populations in the area.
The USACE Plan goal is to restore or enhance millions of acres of land through federal actions and public and private partnerships. The Tulsa District manages more than 1 million acres of land and water with more than 90% of the land being managed for wildlife. District project staff are working diligently to achieve that goal one habitat at a time.