Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Pollinator program successes sprouting up across Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest


Mount Charleston blue butterfly on Nuttall’s linanthus along the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area’s Bonanza Trail, Nevada. Forest Service photo by Katy Gulley.

NEVADA – Imagine living in a world without flowers, fruits or even coffee or chocolate for that matter. Thanks to the wonderful work of pollinators like bees, much of the food we eat and flowers and plants we enjoy are possible. Unfortunately, many pollinator species are seeing declines in population as a result of habitat loss, disease, parasites and over-use of pesticides.

Pollinators are responsible for assisting over 80 percent of the world's flowering plants. Animals that assist plants in their reproduction as pollinators include species of ants, bats, bees, beetles, birds, butterflies, flies, moths and wasps.

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is participating in a national effort to reverse the loss of pollinator species. Although the pollinator program is in its infancy, efforts across the Forest has resulted in the improvement of more than 36,000 acres of habitat in the last two years. Improvements have been made through weed treatments, fuels reduction, and watershed restoration projects.

“The Forest’s pollinator program is focused on improving native pollinators’ habitat, especially for pollinators that are endemic to an area or mountain range.” said Dirk Netz, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Botanist. “The endangered Mount Charleston blue butterfly is one of those species that are only found in upper elevations of the Spring Mountains northwest of Las Vegas in the Forest’s Spring Mountain National Recreation Area.”  

The program is also collecting seed to help restore pollinator populations as well as plant communities, producing education material to be used when talking with the general public or school children, and using best management practices throughout the Forest.

One area of the pollinator program that has been extremely successful is the incorporation of pollinator garden at Forest offices and visitor centers. The first official native plant and pollinator garden was planted two years ago at the Mountain City-Ruby Mountains-Jarbidge Ranger District office in Wells, Nevada. It has nearly 30 different kinds of pollinator friendly species, all locally adapted to the Great Basin. The garden was the first of its kind in the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region (Region 4) and was made possible through a Region 4 Sustainability Committee Micro Grant. 

The Forest also designated two additional pollinator gardens located at the Carson Ranger District’s Galena Creek Visitor Center in Reno, Nevada and the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area’s Visitor Gateway in Mount Charleston, Nevada. These pollinator gardens also serve as a test to determine if similar plantings will work on a larger scale across National Forest System lands.

“Despite the declining pollinator populations, I have hope for the future,” stated Netz. “We have already seen a number of pollinators using our gardens. Not only can we turn the train around but we can do it in a short amount of time.”

An effective pollinator garden will have a number of characteristics including a variety of flowering plants that are biologically active in the early, middle, and late flowering season. The plants should have difference colors and shapes and sizes of flowers and be regionally adapted to their geographic location. For more information on how to plant a pollinator garden, please visit millionpollinatorgardens.org, pollinator.org, or fs.fed.us/wildflowers.