1,000 Acres Pollinator Initiative
The 1,000 Acres Pollinator Initiative is a public/private partnership in which Linn County Conservation, has partnered with the Monarch Research Project (MRP), Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation, and the Marion Parks Department. This collaborative effort aims to restore 1,000 public land acres to a diverse native prairie habitat (Pollinator Zones) within five years through private funding. This primary goal is to restore significant monarch and pollinator habitat throughout the communities of Linn County, Iowa through a collaborative public/private partnership that engages governmental, business, educational, non-profit, and citizen sectors of the community. The Monarch Research Project has committed to the goal of raising up to $1,000,000 for the conversion of 1,000 new acres of diverse pollinator habitat through private donations and grants. This $1,000 per acre budget pays for all native seed, cover crop seed, and site preparation products along with some specialized equipment and interpretive signage. Each year, Linn County Conservation coordinates directly with the cities of Cedar Rapids and Marion to plan how many acres of pollinator zones will be proposed to the Monarch Research Project for funding approval.
Pollinators not only add beauty and diversity to our environment, but also play an important role in food production. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, these hard-working animals help pollinate over 75% of our flowering plants, and nearly 75% of our crops. Without them, wildlife would have fewer nutritious berries and seeds, and we would miss many fruits, vegetables, and nuts not to mention chocolate and coffee.
Many pollinator populations are in decline due to a severe loss in feeding and nesting habitats. 1,000 Acres addresses on a major scale the need to restore unproductive public lands to healthy, productive native habitats that support pollinators, wildlife, water quality, and soil conservation.
This initiative uses pollinator habitat restoration to leverage broader environmental health, community aesthetics, recreational opportunities, nature-based educational opportunities, and ultimately human health. The 1,000 Acres Initiative has evolved into an educational effort to build a model public/private partnership, scalable to any size for other communities and agencies to use across the country.
Linn County Conservation's Effort
In the first three years of the initiative (2017-2019), 802 of the 1,000 acres have been installed with a funding level of about $630,000 provided primarily by the Monarch Research Project through private donations and grants on over 400 acres on Linn County Conservation managed areas including:
From the beginning, the agreement and commitment between Monarch Research Project, Linn County Conservation, Cedar Rapids Parks and Marion Parks has been that these Pollinator Zones funded and installed on public lands are long-term green infrastructure that will be maintained for the future generations to come. Planning and analysis for the 1,000 Acres included review of resource commitment by partners to install, maintain and sustain these prairies as community assets.
Native habitat restoration is at the heart of the core values and community goals of the Linn County Board of Supervisors and the Linn County Conservation Board. Linn County and MRP will continue to promote these community wide native pollinator habitat initiatives across Iowa and beyond in an effort to turn the tide for the many native pollinators that are critical to human and environmental health.