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A bee-friendly Alexandria, Minn.?

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are having a tough time. In the U.S., their population has declined 90 percent in the past two decades.

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A pollinator garden near the north public access on Lake Latoka in Alexandria had a variety of plants for pollinators to enjoy during the summer of 2015. Pictured here are some sneezeweed that was blooming in the garden. (Eric Morken | Forum News Service)

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. - Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are having a tough time. In the U.S., their population has declined 90 percent in the past two decades.

They play a vital role in feeding the world. As they travel from plant to plant, they transfer genetic material that's crucial to the reproduction systems of flowering plants that yield fruits, vegetables and more.

Although a new survey this past summer showed that the number of honeybees rose 3 percent in 2017 compared to last year, environmental groups, conservation leaders and agricultural experts are still concerned about their plight. So is the city of Alexandria, Minn.

At its Monday night meeting, the Alexandria City Council learned about the planning commission's recommendation to amend the city's zoning ordinances to encourage the development of pollinator habitat on vacant parcels larger than five acres.

City Planner Mike Weber said he will present a first reading of the ordinance to the council at its Dec. 11 meeting. It's an issue the commission has been studying for six months while hearing from property owners and conservation officials.

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Right now, city code prohibits grass and other plants from growing to such an extent that it becomes "detrimental to the health or appearance of a neighborhood."

In the proposed ordinance, pollinator habitat is defined as flowering and non-flowering plants that provide pollen and nectar-rich forage resources for butterflies, bees and other insects. It would not allow any noxious vegetation.

To provide the habitat, landowners would get a $50 license for the initial installation and renew it every three years.

They must also submit a planning and management plan, consistent with the Natural Resources Conservation Services guidelines, for review and approval. The plan must include buffer areas of at least 20 feet on sites smaller than 10 acres and buffers of at least 50 feet on larger sites.

The city would provide and install signs in the pollinator habitat areas to make sure the land isn't inadvertently sprayed with chemicals or mowed.

Related Topics: ALEXANDRIA
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