U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division
Creating Pollinator Habitats as Part of an Ecological Revitalization Project
Ecosystem Services image
EPA encourages the incorporation of pollinator protection and habitat planting activities into Superfund cleanups and green infrastructure projects. Many Superfund sites that include ecological revitalization as part of the cleanup process might already include wildlife habitat, including habitat that attracts and supports pollinators. Ecological revitalization is the process of returning a site to a natural state, thus creating, increasing or improving habitat for plants and animals without interfering with the remediation activities that ensure the protection of human health and the environment. Creating and supporting pollinator habitat can be important elements of ecological revitalization as well as other types of site reuse.

This page provides some basic information about pollinator habitats and is intended to assist Superfund site managers interested in incorporating elements that will create, support, and protect pollinator habitats into Superfund reuse plans, whenever possible.

What is pollination? What are pollinators?

Pollination occurs when pollen is moved within flowers or carried from flower to flower by pollinating animals such as birds, bees, bats, butterflies, moths, or beetles, among others, or by the wind. The transfer of pollen in and between flowers of the same species leads to fertilization, and successful seed and fruit production for plants. Pollination ensures that a plant will produce full-bodied fruit and a full set of viable seeds. Three-fourths of flowering plants and about 35 percent of all food crops depend on animal pollinator species to reproduce. Pollinating these crops without the aid of insects, bats, and birds would be financially unsustainable.

Worldwide, there is evidence that pollinator species have been affected by habitat loss, increased use of chemical herbicides and pesticides, introduced and invasive plant and animal species, and diseases and parasites. Many pollinators are federally 'listed species,' meaning that there is evidence of their disappearance in natural areas. One major issue that greatly affects pollinator health is Colony Collapse Disorder in honeybee populations. Over the past 10 years, The United States has lost about 50 percent of its managed honeybee colonies. EPA and other federal government agencies are currently conducting research on the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder and other factors that are threatening the health and well-being of pollinator species.

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What EPA is Doing

On June 20, 2014, the White House released a memorandum announcing the first comprehensive pollinator initiative across the federal government. The 2014 Presidential Memorandum charges EPA with the following actions:

  • Assess the effects of pesticides on pollinator health.
  • Engage states and tribes in the development of pollinator protection plans.
  • Encourage the incorporation of pollinator protection and habitat planting activities into green infrastructure and Superfund projects.
  • Expedite review of registration applications for new products targeting pests harmful to pollinators.
  • Increase habitat plantings around Federal facilities.

Presidential Memorandum

The June 20, 2014 Presidential Memorandum calls for federal actions to increase collaboration, strengthen scientific understanding, develop practical management tools and approaches, and establish essential research goals related to pollinator health. The Pollinator Partnership, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems, acted as a resource as the White House brought stakeholders together and canvassed federal departments and agencies. Among the directives in the memorandum are actions increasing forage on federal lands, assessing the effects of pesticides, establishing pollinator-friendly landscaping practices at federal facilities and educating the public about pollinators.

EPA co-chairs the Pollinator Task Force with USDA to create a National Pollinator Health Strategy that promotes the health of honey bees and other pollinators (including birds, bats, butterflies, and insects). EPA also is taking several pesticide risk management actions to protect pollinators, including monarch butterflies and bees. EPA will continue to conduct chemical-specific risk assessment for insect pollinators and will consider additional chemical-specific mitigation (based on chemical-specific risk assessment) as needed.

Some EPA Regions are developing training for staff to encourage the development of pollinator habitats on formerly contaminated land. For example, Region 7's Internal Programs Pollinator Workgroup has developed training for Region 7 remedial project managers on creating pollinator habitats and how to move forward with the process on their sites.

EPA also is working with state and tribal agencies to develop and implement local pollinator protection plans, known as Managed Pollinator Protection Plans to address the use of highly toxic pesticides in areas other than where bees are brought onsite to provide contract pollination services. Several states have begun engaging stakeholders (growers, applicators and beekeepers) in development of state pollinator protection plans. EPA will seek public input on proposed mitigation. The goal is to have pollinator protection plans available in 2015, where appropriate, and to have labels that reference pollinator protection plans by 2016.

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How the Superfund Program Can Help Pollinators

Chemical Commodities, Inc. Superfund Site Video
This video shows how the Chemical
Commodities Superfund site cleanup
has been a success for plants and
people, and for pollinators.

Superfund and other contaminated sites provide opportunities for creating pollinator habitats. Pollinator habitats can be considered for sites with revegetation efforts and ecological revitalization. The creation of pollinator habitats also can be incorporated into cleanup and reuse plans that include agricultural or recreational use, and in relatively small areas of greenspace, even in urban areas.

Superfund site managers can consider selection of pollinator plant species as part of their remedy design and at other phases of the cleanup. In some cases, as a result of five-year reviews and operation and maintenance inspections, site managers can consider planting pollinator plant species if a revegetation effort is needed to correct erosion and other soil- or plant-related issues found at the site.

Chemical Commodities, Olathe, KS
After a conceptual site plan was developed for the Chemical Commodities Superfund site in Olathe, Kansas, the site's community advisory group worked with Monarch Watch, the Pollinator Partnership, and other site stakeholders to establish a pollinator prairie and garden habitat as part of the revegetation of the site after cleanup.
Palmerton Zinc Pile, Palmerton, PA
Ecological revitalization of the Palmerton Zinc Pile Superfund site in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, resulted in the creation of a 450-acre native prairie that is now home to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. The Nature Center has become a valuable habitat for various native plant and animal species, as well as a refuge for migratory bird species. It also contains habitat gardens where flowering plants attract pollinator species such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other herbaceous insects.
Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex, ID
Cleanup and ecological revitalization of the Bunker Hill Hillsides and Wetlands areas of the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund site, Idaho, has transformed contaminated lands and streams into a sustainable ecosystem with over 400 acres of wetland habitat and over two million newly planted trees. The use of native plants and trees helped create an attractive habitat for wildlife and pollinators while mitigating environmental exposure risks.

In addition to these examples, revitalization of other Superfund sites could be easily adapted to creating habitat to attract, support, and protect butterflies, bees, bats, and other pollinators through the introduction of specific plants, water sources and other elements.

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Creating Pollinator Habitat

Increasing the number of pollinator habitats (or enhancing existing greenspace to accommodate pollinators) is an important step toward restoring the pollinator population. In general, many native pollinator plant species thrive in full sunshine and local soils, providing valuable opportunities to capitalize on sunny, hot, and exposed locations.

The first step to creating pollinator habitat at a Superfund site is planning during the remedy design and site reuse planning processes for opportunities to protect health and well-being of pollinators. However, pollinator habitat can be added any time. As with any ecological revitalization project, site preparation is critical for creating pollinator habitat. Prior to sowing, it is important to determine whether the project site will support suitable growing conditions. In particular, emphasis must be placed on removing invasive or non-native species. Thriving invasive species will burden attempts to grow a prosperous pollinator habitat.

Pollinator habitats will differ from Region to Region (and from state to state and one ecoregion to another). Generally, pollinator habitat involves creating:

Pest Management

In general, the use of natural and mechanical strategies is preferred to the use of pesticides. However, for projects that involve extensive conversions of large land areas (e.g. waste sites, rights of way, and lawns) to natural grasslands and meadows, a well managed plan likely includes the use of pesticides and herbicides in order to remove invasive species. In these cases, an integrated pest management program with reliance on physical, cultural, and biological controls should be used with a goal of managing pests, not eradicating them. For more information on integrated pest management, please visit the EPA Office of Pesticide Program's Integrated Pest Management Principles.
  • Foraging Habitat: Ensure sufficient foraging habitat for pollinators, including plant species of high value. Cultivate native plants that are specific to the pollinator species that you want to attract. Deep or complex flowers may be suited to specific species, such as lupines for bumblebees. Open flowers, such as asters, are easily accessible to bee species that have short mouthparts or are small in size, as well as flies and beetles. Cluster plantings if possible, and try to ensure that there is continuous bloom through fall.
  • Nesting/Reproductive Sites: Nesting or reproductive considerations depend on the needs of the pollinator species for which the land is being managed. For specific butterfly and moth species, appropriate larval host plants should be used. For native bees, sufficient ground nesting areas, snags, or bee blocks should be available. For hummingbirds and doves, sufficient nesting habitat should be present. Bats will require sufficient roosting and maternity habitat. Habitat connectivity is another important concept to consider in habitat planning due to high fragmentation in many regions. For a bee, both nesting and foraging habitat should be in close proximity to benefit the greatest number of species and provide optimum conditions.
  • Shelter: Provide shelter in the form of windbreaks, specific plantings, and overwintering areas. Windbreaks also provide nesting sites for some species as well as additional nectar and pollen sources (maples, wild cherries, linden, etc.). Such areas will also provide cover for butterflies in windy conditions and adverse weather.
  • Monitoring: Monitor the site over time with pollinator inventories and note changes such as pollution and other habitat effects. Though scientific counts are preferred, simple observation such as notes on the number of floral visitors to a patch per 10 minutes or monitored usage of bee blocks are acceptable and encouraged.

More details on creating pollinator habitat can be found through the resources provided below.

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Further Information and Resources

White House and EPA Actions

Pollination and Pollinators – General

Creating Pollinator Habitat

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