Across the world, pollinator populations are declining at significant rates, even as the global need for them to support agricultural and food production intensifies. Factors such as pesticide use, habitat loss, climate change, intense land management practices, and the presence of invasive species contribute to this disastrous global trend. The scale of conservation required to address pollinator population declines demands an unprecedented level of coordination across industry sectors, geographies, public and private organizations, and government agencies. Collectively, approximately 30 million acres of land are used for energy and transportation across the U.S., including rights-of-way for electric and gas utilities, roads, and railroads.
In response, Departments of Transportation across the U.S. are working to create and conserve pollinator habitat for at-risk species and are participating in voluntary conservation agreements to mitigate national habitat loss. Beginning in 2018, a group of 40+ partners from across the energy and transportation sectors in the U.S., in collaboration with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), developed the first nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) to promote voluntary conservation of monarch butterfly habitat on energy and transportation lands. In the first three years of implementation, the UIC and its partners have learned a lot about collaborative conservation strategies and implementing conservation measures for the monarch butterfly. This session will cover an overview of the CCAA program and industry participation, along with an analysis from the first three program years, including monitoring trends, regional and sector differences, and the influence of the CCAA on broader rights-of-way vegetation management.
Lessons from this agreement are also being integrated into a new conservation effort to address the significant decline in bumble bees as well. In particular, the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), was listed by the USFWS as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Widespread population declines have also been documented in closely related bumblebees across the U.S. Solutions are urgently needed to reduce these stressors and bolster bumble bee populations across their ranges. UIC and partners across highway agencies, energy companies, and conservation agencies are embarking on the development of a new nationwide conservation agreement for at-risk bumble bees on energy and transportation lands. This session will introduce the new effort underway, describe the conservation approach envisioned, and highlight opportunities for DOTs and other transportation entities to get involved.