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Image by Cathy VanHeest


The Precariousness of Pollinators with Andrea Montoya

A prevalent message throughout this year’s Colorado Pollinator Summit was that the state of our pollinators is precarious. This means that, even though Colorado has one of the highest concentrations of pollinator diversity in the country, our pollinators and the ecosystem services they provide are dangerously likely to fall or collapse—that is, unless we, as a state, take action to protect them! 

In order to mitigate the vulnerability of pollinators, PPAN believes that cross-collaboration is key—across multiple levels—and that Colorado must further establish itself as a leader in pollinator protection and policy reform. 

As the creator and director of Boulder’s Pollinator Advocate Program, Andrea Montoya is very aware about the precarious state of our most precious insects. We spoke with Montoya to get her take about how best to protect pollinators in Colorado and beyond.

Montoya is very involved with the Pollinator Advocate Program, which is the foundation of the Cool Boulder Pollinator Pathways initiative. Each year through this program, 20 trainees attend 25 hours of lectures and discussions taught by Montoya and other experts in the field. Trainees also get hands-on experience.

“We go out and do habitat training within an actual habitat where people learn to plant and assess soil, how to make [and apply] compost and mulch, and how to identify and build habitat for pollinators,” said Montoya. 

Although Montoya did not start her career in the pollinator world, she is self-taught and encourages others to do what they can to protect all pollinator species.

“So there's always that answer of plant native plants. Okay. Fair enough. And I agree with that. But I like to take it a few steps further,” says Montoya. “Learn about [pollinator habitat] a little bit. You don't have to become an expert. You don't have to become a botanist. Find a reliable source. Find information. But then, studies show that if you really want to have the biggest effect, you need to not only build habitat, need to talk to people about it…the people you are closest to. Studies show [that these people] are two times more likely to take [what you say] seriously and ten times more likely to actually take [positive] action. So if you're going to do something, try to do it with somebody.”

“Precarious to me means that we have to look at the whole system as a wheel with spokes on it. In the middle we have the pollinators and their habitat…[these] should never be separated. We can't talk about one without talking about the other. [What] we've got [are] multidimensional pressures that are being put upon habitat and pollinators,” states Montoya, so, there is a need for collaboration on this issue across all landscapes—communal and physical.

Like Montoya said, it is important to talk to people about issues you are passionate about. By talking with others about pollinator habitat and the precariousness of pollinators, we are planting the seeds for collaboration across all landscapes.

“We need to think broad-scale across communities. We each need to start thinking more globally and acting locally, but not so local[ly] that we're just confined to our own yard. We have to make sure that this information gets out to our community members who are less privileged,” says Montoya. “So, making sure that this information in schools gets taught to children who are not just English speakers and not just the upper class schools. Now we're spreading the word with neighbors, friends and relatives that can have an impact in improving habitat and with improved habitat comes improved ecosystems for pollinators.” 

But collaboration includes more than just working with community members.

“Groups have to collaborate, in terms of building connected spaces, which is another type of collaboration, ecological collaboration,” says Montoya. One type of ecological collaboration that the Pollinator Advocate Program creates is pollinator highways. Montoya explains,

“There's a lot of work being done about what happens when you connect, like on areas which allow for the movement of pollinators to fly from one space to another space. So if these pollinator habitats are too far apart, the insects will literally die and dehydrate before they get to the next pollinator habitat. But if the habitats are closer we create these little chains, [or pollinator highways] of biodiversity.”

To summarize the need for collaboration across all landscapes Montoya says, “interconnected across the ecological spaces would be corridors, and interconnected across social and political groups is really political and unity organizing. We can't separate collaboration and ecosystem work from survival of the pollinator species.” So, who should lead the charge in this ecological and social collaboration for pollinator and habitat protection?

With over 1,000 types of bee species and thousands of other native pollinators that call Colorado home, many believe that it is our state’s responsibility to lead the charge.

“We are blessed with ecosystems here that other people and other states just don't have. We have everything from the highest peaks to the lowest grasslands. And within each of those areas, we have different ecosystems with different species of plants, with different abundances and richness of those plants and those pollinators. So I feel that we are obligated to steward these animals and these plants and the Earth in the way our indigenous forbearers did. It's our obligation to nurture all of those systems,” says Montoya. 

“We didn't evolve as separate species within silos that don't relate to each other. The entire organism of our dear Earth is an evolution of interrelated and interconnected systems. So what we do in one place, what we do in one way, completely affects the other. So the healing [of our planet and of our pollinators] is also going to have to be interconnected.” 

So, what can you do? Plant a pollinator garden. Talk to those closest to you about this issue. Do what you can to collaborate on pollinator habitats across all landscapes by thinking about broad-scale communal and ecological efforts.

Use your power as a Coloradan to contact your legislators and to financially support  collaborative Colorado-based organizations, like PPAN (and our partners!)  —organizations that promote and advocate for biodiverse and regenerative landscapes— in yards, cities, parks, and open spaces. Finally, stay connected to actions and solutions that are making a tangible and critical difference for Colorado’s pollinators, because frankly, we as a species, wouldn’t be here without them.

Photos from Cool Boulder & Boulder Daily Camera, respectively.




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