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More pollinator projects find roots in Fargo-Moorhead

The former Crestwood neighborhood along the Red River in Moorhead will be used as a natural space for wildflowers to attract pollinators and other species. (David Samson / Forum News Service)

MOORHEAD — Pollinator projects are becoming more common in Fargo-Moorhead and across North Dakota to ensure that native pollinators have access to certain plants.

Pollinator habitat projects and gardens, along with data gathered from studies, may prevent future endangered species listings.

The non-profit conservation organization Pheasants Forever will begin planting Moorhead's next pollinator project in June along the Red River.

The empty lots once occupied by houses at high risk of flooding will be repurposed as a pollinator habitat project to benefit wildlife and improve water quality in the surrounding area, according to Pheasants Forever biologist Tony Nelson.

The 7.72 acres of land in Crestwood Addition were purchased with Clay County bonding dollars due to floods and bank slippage, according to Moorhead City Commissioner Jenny Mongeau.

The project is funded by Pheasants Forever, the Soil and Water Conservation District and the Department of Natural Resources.

It's one of many pollinator projects in Fargo-Moorhead. Others include a garden in Fargo's Mickelson Park that is pending approval, according to Fargo Parks District Director Joel Vettel, as well as gardens at the Plains Art Museum and the Red River Zoo.

Nelson said these projects will aim to restore native grasses and wildflowers that can be pollinated by a variety of species including bees, butterflies, bats, deer, turkeys and hummingbirds.

"These are plants that you would've seen 150 years ago travelling through the area," Nelson said.

Pheasants Forever had funding set aside to head the pollinator habitat restoration that will cost Clay County nothing, require little upkeep and should benefit local wildlife.

North Dakota State University graduate students Chyna Pei and Adrienne Antonsen are starting their second summer conducting pollinator surveys, which is a four-year study covering three areas in each North Dakota county.

"We want to help increase the presence of bees in our community, especially in a place like North Dakota where there's so much agriculture. Most pollinators can't survive very well in fields of corn or soybeans," Antonsen said.

She said that special native species of bees require more rare native plants and will struggle if they only have one crop option.

Their project seeks baseline information for bee and butterfly counts in North Dakota to find out how many populations they're dealing with, how endangered they are and for monitoring population growth and decline.

Once Pei and Antonsen gather data, they can develop strategies to protect native species of pollinators.

With funding from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, they've been able to hire eight technicians to help them collect information from 159 pieces of land across the state in a three-month time frame.

They are still looking for interested landowners willing to allow technicians access on their land two to four times during the summer.

The land must be native or restored prairie, at least 50 acres and less than a mile from an accessible and SUV-friendly road.

Interested landowners can contact Adrienne Antonsen at (520) 908-4298 or adrienne.antonsen@ndsu.edu.

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