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Bee City head to speak in Ashland

ASHLAND — A leader of Bee City USA will visit the Rogue Valley this week to see efforts in the three local, designated Bee City towns and to participate in the first Rogue Valley Pollinator Project conference, called “Pesticides, People, Pollinators and the Planet,” at Southern Oregon University Saturday.

Phyllis Stiles, group founder and executive director, and others started the movement in Asheville, N.C. Talent became the second designated Bee City in 2013. Ashland followed in 2014, and Phoenix was designated in 2015.

“I’m so excited to meet these people that I have talked to and emailed with and hear about,” said Stiles, who is visiting for the first time. “I’ll make the rounds to thank the mayors. We really appreciate their leadership.”

Bee City fosters dialogue to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and the threats they face. Towns agree to create sustainable habitats for pollinators and pass resolutions to gain the certification.

North Carolina now has five designated cities, while Oregon has three. Stiles will meet with contingents from Jacksonville and Rogue River who are working on Bee City status.

“We actually don’t go out and try to recruit anybody,” said Stiles. “We never try to rush anybody. We caution them and we say it is really better to build your coalition from the beginning rather than rushing and finding out that you don’t have anybody buying in.”

At noon Thursday, Stiles will meet with city officials and the public at the Phoenix library, 510 W. First St. At 3:30 p.m., she will be at the Talent roundabout, where a pollinator garden on city property will be dedicated.

Saturday’s all-day conference in SOU's Stevenson Union, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., will include experts on pesticides and pollinators.

“We are educating people about the importance of our pollinators,” said project board member Kristina Lefever. “We already have one native bee that is likely extinct and another on the verge and one native butterfly is in decline.”

Preserving and enhancing what remains of native pollinator habitat and getting rid of pesticides that are toxic to pollinators are the group’s two main messages, said Lefever. She said common items such as weed and feed and rose food contain detrimental pesticides.

Kim Leval, executive director of the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, will give the keynote address, titled “The Synthetic Pesticides State of the Union,” at 9 a.m. Saturday after Stiles gives opening remarks.

Workshops and panels will be offered throughout the day. Among topics are creating healthy public spaces, toxic-free growing and pesticide impact on human and pollinator health.

A lunch break will include the screening of a short film. Attendees are asked to bring their own brown-bag lunches. Cost of the conference is $10 general, free to students with identification cards. Registration is available at the door or online.

A reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday will be held in the Meese Room at SOU's Hannon Library, 1290 Ashland St. Wine, mead and refreshments will be served, and a $20 charge will help defray conference expenses.

Two more Bee City USAs will be named in the near future, said Stiles, bringing the total to 17. There also are eight Bee Campuses USA. Southern Oregon University was the first designated bee campus. Bee cities and campuses are now located in 14 states.

Shelly Candel of Bee City, Canada also will attend the weekend conference. Candel started the effort after learning of it while at a workshop presented by the Rogue Valley group at North Mountain Park in Ashland. Bee City gets calls regularly from other countries, but the all-volunteer group urges them to form their own efforts while copying what has worked for Bee City USA., Stiles said.

Conference information and registration can be found at pollinatorprojectroguevalley.org.

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