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Halifax considers applying for ‘Bee City’ status. Here’s the buzz – Halifax


Halifax regional council is considering applying for “Bee City” status, in an effort to help preserve the city’s pollinator population in the years to come.

Bee City Canada is a program from Pollinator Partnership Canada that aims to “inspire cities, towns, First Nations, schools, businesses and other organizations to take action to protect pollinators,” according to a Halifax staff report from last month.

Toronto became the country’s first Bee City in 2016, and according to the Bee City Canada website, more than 70 other cities and towns have joined the program since. In Nova Scotia, New Glasgow is the only municipality with Bee City status.

The staff report noted that pollinators – which include bees, birds, bats, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals – are “essential to plant health and reproduction.”

“Unfortunately, pollinators face many threats, including habitat loss, pollution, pesticides, disease, and climate change,” it said, though it noted conservation is “highly achievable” in urban areas because they don’t need much space to thrive.

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“This means that small actions, like encouraging residents to plant more native flowering species, can yield large benefits.”

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The report said investing in pollinator habitat restoration would provide many benefits to residents, “including pollination of garden plants, beautification of municipal parks, boulevards and right of ways through an increase in flowering native species over lawns, and potentially an increase in productivity in nearby agricultural areas.

“Increased pollinator abundance also benefits other wildlife, particularly birds, who rely on insects as a source of food,” it said. “Healthy bird populations provide opportunity for recreation through bird watching.”

It said city staff have found four external stakeholders with expertise in beekeeping and pollinator conservation to help form a committee as part of the application process. A municipal representative can submit the application to Bee City Canada after the committee is created.

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In order to apply for Bee City status successfully, municipalities must show existing and ongoing work to support pollination.

The staff report took note of a number of initiatives that demonstrate that work:

  • Boulevard gardening, which allows residents greater control over what they can plant in their abutting boulevard strip. An administrative order respecting boulevard gardening was passed in 2020, and staff delivered a pilot project on Dartmouth’s Dahlia Street in 2022 that included a native plant giveaway;
  • A naturalization pilot program, where parks and recreation staff work with community groups to deliver naturalization projects in municipal parks;
  • Encouraging residents to join existing community gardens;
  • Allowing more residents to keep honeybees by exempting bees owned by beekeepers under the Bee Industry Act, and allowing residents in every zone under section 72 of the regional centre plan to keep bees.

Prospective Bee Cities must agree to adopt three commitments: to create, maintain, and/or improve pollinator habitat; educate the community about the importance of pollinators; and celebrate pollinators during National Pollinator Week in June.

Once the Bee City status is approved, an annual report must be completed to show advancement in these three commitments.

After the first year, there is an annual fee of $750 per year to stay in the program.

The report said the implementation of a naturalization strategy will be “critical” in maintaining Bee City status. The strategy would be dependent on hiring a full-time naturalization coordinator.

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The city defined naturalization as an “ecologically-based approach to landscape management that seeks to enhance biodiversity and ecological resilience in the urban landscape using native or non-invasive-adapted plant species including flowering perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees.”

Funding has already been approved in the 2023/24 budget to hire a naturalization coordinator, though the report recommends waiting until the position is created and filled before applying for Bee City status.

The municipality’s environment and sustainability standing committee is recommending that regional council direct the CAO to apply for Bee City status within one year of hiring a naturalization co-ordinator. The matter is expected to be discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting next week.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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