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Local Audubon Society lands grant for native plant project

Hope Farley, 8, begins to dig a small hole for a plant in June 2017 at North Country Park. Three raised beds were filled with plants to create gardens that are specifically designed to support Monarch butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. (Pioneer file photo)

BEMIDJI—The Mississippi Headwaters Audubon Society was recently awarded a National Audubon Society grant to promote the planting of native trees, shrubs, and flowers for birds and pollinators in Bemidji.

MHAS was one of 35 awardees out of 89 applications. "Birds, Bees, & Butterflies — Bemidji" brings together several local organizations, businesses and agencies who share a common interest in creating better habitat for birds, pollinators and people," said Peter Buesseler, MHAS president, in a press release.

"Birds, bees, and butterflies have several things in common—they all depend on native plants; they play an important role in pollination; and all face increasing pressures from loss of habitat, diseases, and non-native invasive competitors."

A number of activities are planned for 2018, including:

• Demonstration gardens at the Watermark Art Center, Bemidji Middle School, Sanford Bemidji Cancer Center meditation garden, BSU campus plantings, and Leech Lake Tribal College.

• Workshops: "How to get started with native plants" community workshop, May 22; and "Native plants in downtown planters and small spaces" May 30.

• 2018 Top 10 Native Plants promotion: Ten native plants important to birds and pollinators are being highlighted for people in the Bemidji area to consider adding to their yards, gardens and planters. The groups are working with local nurseries and garden centers to have these available for their customers, with special sales promotion events June 16-17. The Bemidji Garden Club will have some of these Top Ten Native Plants at their annual plant sale, Saturday, May 19, at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds.

• Other events: The 2018 Bemidji Bird City celebration June 30, and the second annual Monarch Festival in August (check the MHAS website or Facebook page for more details).

• Gardens are outdoor sanctuaries for birds, insects and other wildlife. Every spring, migrating birds visit our yards looking for nourishment from our gardens and places to raise their chicks. By adding native plants to one's yard, balcony, container garden, rooftop or public space, anyone, anywhere can not only attract more birds but give them the best chance of survival in the face of climate change and urban development, the release said.

Most landscaping plants available in nurseries are exotic species from other countries. Many are prized for qualities that make them poor food sources for wildlife. They generally also require more chemicals and water to thrive, increasing maintenance time, costs and environmental hazards. Some can even become invasive.

By growing native plants, local residents can help protect birds while turning their home into a private wildlife paradise. MHAS has information on native plants for birds and pollinators on their website: www.spearheadmhas.org/birds-and-bees.php

Fifteen groups are currently involved in "Birds, Bees & Butterflies — Bemidji." In addition to MHAS, the groups are are Bemidji Parks and Recreation, Bemidji Garden Club, Bog & Logs Chapter of Minnesota Master Naturalists, Beltrami County Master Gardeners, Bemidji State University Sustainability Office, Bemidji Downtown Alliance, Visit Bemidji, Watermark Art Center, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Bemidji School District, three local nurseries and two local garden centers.

"Birds, Bees, & Butterflies — Bemidji" also was recently featured in the Spring Issue of Audubon Magazine (online and print).

The National Audubon Society's Coleman and Susan Burke Center for Native Plants was established to promote the use of native plants that benefit birds in human communities, the release said. The center provides small grants to support Audubon network Plants for Birds activities that will increase the visibility, reach, and impact of Audubon's Plants for Birds programming across the country.