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Project creating Rogue Valley 'buzzway' map

An online pollinator corridor map is being compiled with the goal of inspiring a Rogue Valley “buzzway.”

Pollinator Project Rogue Valley is mapping pollinator-friendly landscapes with help from Southern Oregon University students and a foundation grant. Property owners are requested to complete an online questionnaire to provide data.

The Rogue Buzzway Project will create a map that allows people to easily see the pollinator corridors throughout the Rogue Valley. These corridors provide safe havens for butterflies, bumble bees, native bees, honey bees, hummingbirds, moths and other pollinators, according to the group’s website, www.pollinatorprojectroguevalley.org.

One-third of the food supply and 90 percent of plants are dependent on pollinators, said Kristina Lefever, president of the group. But loss of habitat and use of chemicals have impacted many pollinators.

“The buzzway is a way to help with that,” said Lefever. “The connectivity is important. You don’t want to have just isolated areas.”

The Buzzway Project will identify existing pollinator-friendly parcels and locate pollinator corridors and islands, identify areas that lack pollinator-friendly plantings, educate and inspire the community to expand the quantity, quality and variety of pollinator habitats, and improve local food production by supporting and building a thriving pollinator population, the website said.

Both local and national organizations have rallied to create pollinator-friendly landscapes. Ashland, Phoenix, Talent and Gold Hill have been recognized for their efforts with Bee City USA designations.

The Pollinator Project of Berkeley awarded $1,000 to Pollinator Project Rogue Valley in December to help with the mapping and presentations. The Berkley group is focused on providing seed money for a variety of efforts — not just pollinator projects — giving grants of up to $1,000 for undertakings as diverse as water supplies in Africa, sports for the disabled in India and drug programs in Appalachia.

“I feel very honored that they accepted us as a grantee,” said Lefever. “That means they recognize the importance of pollinators in the community.”

Two Southern Oregon University students support the mapping as part of service learning under guidance of a faculty member in the school’s Environmental Science and Policy major.

“Students get to do a little bit of service to support their learning and test out their skills and provide service for a local nonprofit,” said Assistant Professor Jamie Trammel, who teaches digital mapping and GIS courses. “Most of the work is done by the students.”

Jarrett Taylor, a senior in the major who is minoring in biology, will use the Buzzway Project as part of his capstone experience. Much of the work will be performed during the coming academic year.

“I’ll be taking the survey information and make maps out of it. This is my first project with GIS,” said Taylor. “I hope that we can keep it going for the longer term, and I would like for it to be utilized by the Jackson County GIS (database) so that it can be public.”

An earlier effort produced one map, but the grant and assistance will extend the undertaking. Property owners from across the valley have submitted information, Lefever said.

“We are in the beginning stages. We have a lot of data that we are putting in,” said Lefever. “I’m hoping we can work on it some this summer so that we can put out another version of the map before the end of the year.”

Criteria for pollinator habitat include plants blooming continuously from early spring to early winter; water for bees or mud for butterflies; seeds and plants that have not been treated with neonicotinoids or other systemic pesticides; and “untended” areas with bare soil and/or bushes and other plantings for nesting and overwintering of native bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Survey questions ask for contact information, property location, synthetic pesticide use during the last two years, percentage of land that is pollinator habitat, and percentage that has native plants. Personal information about those who sign up will not be disclosed.

More information and the questionnaire can be found on the website.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.