This Rusty Patch Bumblebee, with the 'rusty patch' that it is named for, was photographed in Iowa, as Nature Nut caught none during his survey     Credit Rick Hollis.jpg

This rusty patch bumblebee, with the “rusty patch” that it is named for, was photographed in Iowa, as Nature Nut caught none during his survey. (Rick Hollis)

The Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources wants to help you help the rusty patched bumble bee.

The commission this year allocated $900,000 for a statewide “Lawns to Legumes” program. That means Minnesotans who convert a part of their lawn to pollinator-friendly gardens can receive a matching grant for their efforts. People can apply for a portion of $700,000 in cost-share grants to plant pollinator gardens in areas identified as critical for the rusty patched bumblebee.

Want to learn more?

The city of Rochester is holding a “Lawns to Legumes: Your Yard Can Bee The Change Workshop” Nov. 14 at Cascade Meadow and Wetlands Learning Center.

The event is one of more than 20 around the state to give people information they need to start a pollinator garden and to apply for reimbursement grants.

Legumes are flowering plants that help fix nitrogen in the ground. They include white Dutch clover and Minnesota-native plants wild lupine, lead plant and purple prairie clover. The program also encourages planting of other flowering native plants and not exclusively legumes -- anything that helps pollinators and the endangered rusty patched bumble bee.

The goal is to create many small areas of habitat in urban and rural yards that provide a network of food and habitat for bees and other insects.

People who live in areas identified by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources as priority areas of concern for the bumble bee’s habitat would get priority consideration for up to $350 in reimbursement grants for planting a pollinator garden.

Most of Olmsted County and regions east toward the Mississippi River have been labeled the highest priority, according to a BWSR interactive state map. However, anyone in the state can apply for the funding.

The initiative is a three-year pilot program to see what impact building microhabitats will have on pollinator populations and to gauge interest from landowners.

Interest in the program has already been high, said Stephanie Hatzenbihler, environmental education specialist in the Rochester Public Works Department. More than 40 people have already signed up for the workshop.

“This is a topic we already know is of interest in Rochester,” she said. “People value pollinators -- they’re very charismatic.”

Hatzenbihler said that as the grant process becomes more clear, the program could dovetail with the city’s rain garden program.

That program has been popular as well, she added. People feel they have a bigger impact on a widespread problem of habitat loss when they can see the results of their efforts.

“It’s very tangible,” she said. “And you get to have beautiful flowers outside your window.”

Learn more about what plants benefit pollinators and could be eligible for cost-share grants: Visit the BWSR site online at bwsr.state.mn.us.

Update: Oct. 30, 2019

An earlier version of this article included outdated information on the “Lawns to Legumes” cost reimbursement program. The Minnesota Bureau of Water and Soil Resources has changed its early proposal for how grants will be awarded. BWSR won’t offer grants in three tiers of funding. Instead, people can apply for up to $350 toward cost of creating a pollinator garden regardless of location. People in the highest priority areas of rusty patched bumble bee habitat will be given first consideration for grant funding.

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