Pollinator conservation and management have become major concerns for state, federal, and private land managers throughout the United States. Pollinators are a critical component of nearly every ecosystem and contribute significantly to an area’s biodiversity. They provide fundamental ecological services, but are, in most cases, a relatively unknown and underappreciated group of taxa. Pollinator is a collective term for any organism (e.g. insect, bird, bat, mammal, reptile) that facilitates the transport of pollen from the male anthers to the female stigma, either of the same flower (autogamy) or of different individual flowers (heterogamy). Pollination is required for successful plant fertilization and the viable production of seeds and fruit, and 88% of plants utilize or require animal pollination to some degree. Loss of pollinators, also known as pollinator decline (of which colony collapse disorder in domestic honey bees is perhaps the most well known example) has been a point of major national and international concern in recent years. Observed losses of honey bee colonies are having significant economic impacts and, likely, substantial ecological impacts. Suspected declines in many other pollinators (e.g., native bees, bats) may exacerbate this growing problem. Possible explanations for pollinator declines include habitat destruction, pesticides, parasitism/diseases, and others. Federal and state legislative efforts protecting bees and other pollinators, or providing incentives for their protection, are being affected in the United States and Europe.
Numerous federal and state agencies and private organizations have become actively involved in pollinator conservation. The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, managed by the Pollinator Partnership, is a tri-national alliance that fosters communication among Pollinator Working Groups (WGs), pollinator researchers, non-governmental agencies, and state and federal agencies from Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Regional Pollinator WGs have also been established for several broad areas of the United States. Although pollinator conservation has not traditionally been considered a major aspect of installation natural resource management programs, DoD’s recent focus on ecosystem management and ecosystem services has provided opportunities to increase management emphasis on many nongame species, including pollinators. The high quality of existing forested, riparian, and open habitats on many military lands provide excellent nectar resources and nesting sites for a large variety of pollinators, some of which are either threatened, endangered, or at-risk species (TER-S) or pollinators or seed dispersers of TER-S plants.
In 1999, the National Military Fish and Wildlife Association (NMFWA) sponsored a “Pollinator Conservation and Management Workshop” in conjunction with its Annual Training Workshop in Burlingame, California. The program was conducted by representatives of Pollinator Conservation International (PCI) and was well attended by DoD personnel. The session revealed an increasing interest in developing pollinator conservation, management, and awareness programs on installations throughout the nation. A follow-up technical session entitled “Pollinator Conservation and Management” was held as part of the 2000 NMFWA Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. At the 2008 NMFWA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, AZ, a morning session featured international experts (Dr. Stephen Buchmann and Ms. Laurie Adams) on pollinator biology and conservation. The session focused on pollinator declines and introduced the Pollinator Protection Campaign (now the Pollinator Partnership). At the 2009 NMFWA meeting in Washington, DC, the DoD Natural Resources Program hosted a half-day Workshop on Pollinator Habitat Restoration. The workshop was attended by almost 90 DoD natural resource personnel, and was very well reviewed. The 2009 workshop was the impetus to form a NMFWA Pollinator Working Group.