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Issues of the Environment: City of Ann Arbor launches its ‘No Mow May’ campaign to protect pollinators

Issues of the Environment: City of Ann Arbor launches its ‘No Mow May’ campaign to protect pollinators

Overview

  • Ann Arbor was established in March 2022. Conservation initiative To encourage bee populations and other pollinators. No Mow May requests city residents to not mow their lawns before May 31st.
  • For pollinators that have overwintered, early spring is a vulnerable period. Pollen and nectar are in short supply and bees need more fuel to start again. Clusters of flowering plants in close proximity allow bees to forage more efficiently by not consuming as much energy.
  • Earth Day April 22, 2022 is Earth Day. The theme for this year’s event is to invest in our planet. It is important to embrace wildflowers, clover, and dandelions instead of mowing the lawn. This is part of investing in a future that supports agriculture and plant diversity.
  • Since decades, bee populations have been declining along with butterflies and other native species. This has been due to habitat loss and monoculture crop farming. There are also pesticides that target insect pests and aggressive herbicide programmes that nearly eliminate weeds. No Mow May Appleton, WI, saw the debut of No Mow May lawns in 2020. The results were encouraging for researchers. They found that No Mow Mai lawns had five times as many bees and three to four times the bee species than mown grass. (Source: *directly quoted* https://apnews.com/article/11a89d12a0174df79a237949cf25d1c3)
  • Council expressed appreciation to Ann Arbors Rita Mitchell, of the Cities Environmental Commission Thank you for helping to bring this idea forward. Mitchell and Eileen Dickinson, Mitchell’s neighbor, have worked for several decades to promote pollinator-friendly communities through the Bee Safe Ann ArborCampaign to stop spraying chemicals onto lawns and to create safe areas for pollinators, wild animals and pets. (Source: *directly quoted* https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2022/04/ann-arbor-promoting-no-mow-may-to-help-save-bees-other-pollinators.htm)
  • Erica Briggs Ann Arbor City Council – 5th WardThe resolution was sponsored in part by, She said that No Mow May is a win/win situation. Residents can save money and time, while pollinators benefit.

Transcription

David Fair: The past week has seen some warmer days, and although it’s been a bit cooler, nature is getting ready for spring in full bloom. I’m David Fair and welcome to 891 WEMU’s Issues of the Environment. It’s tempting to jump out and tackle all the yard work that has accumulated, and to begin beautifying our lawns. In order to protect bees, we urge you to put off some of this work. Erica Briggs (5th Ward Ann Arbor City Councilwoman) is our guest today. She was the sponsor of the council’s “No Mow May” resolution. It asks you not to mow lawns until June. We are grateful for your time today. I appreciate it.

Erica Briggs: Thank you so much.

David Fair: This is not an ordinance and I want everyone to know that it’s a resolution. It encourages people not mowing lawns now, if I understand correctly. Correct?

Erica Briggs: Yeah, that’s correct. It’s completely voluntary, but we encourage residents to sign up.

David Fair: Is there a source of inspiration for the resolution? Where is the inspiration?

Erica Briggs: We are fortunate to have engaged and informed residents. There were also a few people who are part of Bee Safe Ann Arbor who reached out and encouraged– contacted the City Council–and encouraged to adopt this resolution. It was also percolating in cities as well as the environmental commission.

David Fair: The Bee Safe Ann Arbor campaign succeeded. It spent a lot time lobbying property owners to stop using chemical treatments for their lawns and gardens. These treatments are partly responsible for the decline in bees and other pollinators. Is this resolution asking for lawn chemicals to be considered?

Erica Briggs: t does not. Its purpose is to speak to the benefit and detriment of others. It really encourages people to think about the action of mowing their grass and focus on that.

David Fair: Earth Day. Only a few more days until Earth Day. So, it seems fitting that we have this conversation about how we care to the Earth through our personal property. This year’s Earth Day theme is “invest in our planet”. How can No Mow may help achieve that larger objective?

Erica Briggs: Right. You see, pollinators play an important role in our ecosystem. As you may have guessed, 75 percent if our plants rely on them for their pollen. We are seeing a significant decline in their numbers. We can make it easier for pollinators to live in more favorable habitats. You mentioned earlier that we should not use pesticides or herbicides. But, we can also create habitat by not mowing the lawns in spring, so that these emerging pollinators can get off to a good start.

David Fair: 891 WEMU’s Issues of the Environment continue. Today, Erica Briggs, Ann Arbor City Councilwoman, joins us. Let’s explore how to implement the resolution on our properties to create this habitat. Many people don’t mind the dandelions appearing, or they like them. The grass grows and the native plants return. There are many people who don’t like this aesthetic. Do you have an elevator speech for them?

Erica Briggs: Well, you’ll notice that I’ve been digging into it and discovered that I love manicured lawns. It’s something I have always loved and was taught. As I began to dig deeper into the matter, I realized that this aesthetic has changed over the years. I found out that rich landowners in England had wildflower meadows in the 16th century. Their job was to pick out the grass from the plants. We’d have different opinions on this. It’s important for people to consider the merits of this, and to reflect on the roots of their love of the short grass in spring.

David Fair: Are you a member of a homeowners association?

Erica Briggs: I haven’t.

David Fair: Those who have can usually speak to this. Some neighborhoods have very clear and well-enforced rules. If those standards are not met, a friendly reprimand can quickly turn to a frowny legal situation. Do you have any message for the associations to help us protect our natural future?

Erica Briggs: I think these homeowner associations could take a look at it and decide if this is the right time to review their rules. You can certainly put up a sign in your yard. If you visit Bee Safe Ann Arbor or any other organization that works on this, you can get a sign printed and placed in your yard. This lets people know, you know. You also need to know the reasons behind this. It may help you to avoid getting disapproval from your neighbors or feeling like you’re not doing your job. You know that sometimes, you can accomplish more with less.

David Fair: Many people live in the city and do not belong a club. However, it is possible to be cited for excessive grass growth or if the lawn appears unmaintained. Is the resolution a declaration that there will be no enforcement measures in Ann Arbor for this issue until June?

Erica Briggs: It’s important to be practical. If you live on a corner, and the grass is blocking people’s sight lines or preventing them from turning and creating safe driving conditions, then that’s something you need to be aware of. It’s all about balance. You know, there are times when this may become an issue. But, most likely, we will be able achieve both goals together.

David Fair:With Erica Briggs (city councilwoman), we’re discussing Ann Arbor’s No Mow May resolution on 89 One WEMU’s Issues of the Environment. In what extent will city-owned property be included in No Mow Mai?

Erica Briggs: Yes, it is happening already in a few parks. You’ll notice some areas are mowed in the park, while others aren’t. I live near West Park. Those spaces are not for creating habitat for pollinators. Organizations have recommended that the city adopt a biweekly lawn mowing program. This will be an attempt to maintain balance, making sure that there is enough field for people to use for their athletic purposes, and also integrating this goal.

David Fair: It’s not just about making natural choices and supporting measures that promote the survival and proliferation pollinators. It’s also an economic issue. This is true for not only the city but also the county, state and nation. This was something you considered when deciding to present this resolution.

Erica Briggs: Well, you know what? I don’t think so. There is certainly an economic impact on the agricultural industries due to the decline of pollinators. This step is one that we can all take as a community to start thinking about.

David Fair: Is there any way to assess whether the resolution has achieved the success it hopes for and if there are improvements that can be made in the future?

Erica Briggs: You know, it will be interesting to see if anyone else takes this on. This is what I know. Although there is no evaluation process, Appleton, Wisconsin, which was the first American city to do this, has a research project. Appleton found that the participating lawns had five to three times as many bee species and had five times the amount of bees than the Appleton parks. There has been extensive research. It has been shown that it is effective. It’s clear that it has many benefits.

David Fair: That is good news for the Earth’s ecology, and there are just two more days before Earth Day. Are you going to Ann Arbor Earth Day at Leslie Science Center Sunday, April 22nd?

Erica Briggs: Absolutely.

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David Fair: What do you look forward to most?

Erica Briggs: I love going to all the different tables. You know, I have worked at the bike valet in the past, checking in bikes. This year, I will be able to visit all these presidents and organizations. It’ll be a lot of fun.

David Fair: Engaging with people. This is quite a novel idea after only a few years.

Erica Briggs: Exactly. That would be fantastic.

David Fair: If we have been engaging nature for the last couple of years, it has been almost alone. This will be something special. It is something I am looking forward to. You can be seen by others, right?

Erica Briggs: Yup, absolutely. I look forward to it.

David Fair:Thank you so much for sharing your information and taking the time to thank me. I do appreciate it.

Erica Briggs: Thank you. Thank you for looking at it.

David Fair: Erica Briggs, Fifth Ward Ann Arbor councilwoman, discusses the city’s No Mow Mai resolution. Visit our WEMU dot.org website for more information. Issues of the environment is produced in partnership by the Office of the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner. You can hear it every Wednesday. This is David Fair, the community NPR Station. It’s 89 on WEMU FM and WEMU HD1 Ypsilanti.

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