The Xerces Society is the world’s biggest and longest-running charity helping pollinators, fresh-water mollusks, and many other important, keystone species. Xerces works with farmers, government agencies, corporations, and individuals through research, education, and direct habitat restoration. The current, dire situation for bees, butterflies and insects in general has made their work even more crucial.
In 2016, Bently Foundation made a $100,000 grant to help Xerces create a massive pollinator-friendly highway through California’s Central Valley. This grant helped Xerces: educate over 1,000 agriculture professionals about pollinator friendly practices; establish over six miles of hedgerow habitat, initiate five new farm demonstration sites that showcase methods for supporting pollinators, attracting beneficial insects for natural pest control, and improving soil health, carbon sequestration, and drought resilience; launch Bee Better Certified which incentivizes large-scale adoption of pollinator conservation methods; develop pollinator-friendly pest management strategies for seven large almond producers; and support the establishment of hedgerow habitat, cover crops, and other conservation features for 28 Central Valley farms.
Xerces' “Re-flowering California’s Central Valley” project was so successful in its first year that the initiative attracted many more large funders and expanded 5-fold over its original target scope. Encouraged by this exponential expansion, Bently Foundation awarded a second $100,000 grant to Xerces in 2018 to support the project for another year. Habitat restoration successes included: 25 new miles of hedgerows & 200 acres of wildflower meadows and cover crops; 4 almond orchards became Bee Better Certified (with many more to come), and; teaching 75 power company reps about how to manage their land for pollinators. Xerces educated another 1,000+ farmers, wild land & park managers, gardeners and scientists through workshops & trainings. 13 cities and campuses have signed up with Bee City USA, a new program to encourage urban places to eliminate pesticide use and plant habitat. They were even able to garner sufficient support to encourage the California Assembly to pass a bill that provides $2 million for habitat conservation and get four species of bumble bee added to the CA Endangered Species Act.
As a key center for agriculture, California relies heavily on its pollinators and other insects for the health of its crops. Despite this, the California Endangered Species Act does not currently allow insects to be included under its protections. Xerces is advocating for California's vanishing insects by appealing the court decision that excluded them from ESA protections. They are simultaneously using protections offered by the Federal Endangered Species Act to ensure that public projects account for imperiled insects in their planning process. Finally, a robust advocacy campaign is attempting to bring more attention to these tiny but vital members of our shared ecosystem. In 2021, Bently Foundation awarded Xerces Society with a $100,000 grant to spearhead this effort.
Photo Credits: 1st & 2nd by Kathryn Prince; 3rd by Jessa Kay Cruz; 4th by Richard Hatfield (all of Xerces Society)