This legislation establishes guidelines for solar sites and other property owners and businesses who aim to be pollinator-friendly. This voluntary standard will include minimum requirements for biodiversity and land management practices, which will help property owners who wish to help pollinators to do so effectively and ensure that companies who claim to be beneficial to pollinators are backing up their claim. Additionally, this will also help educate the public about the importance of native meadows and pollinators.
New York State is home to over 450 species of pollinators. Due to habitat loss and fragmentation, exposure to toxins, and other stressors, these native pollinators are being threatened. NYS has lost about 50% of its managed pollinator colonies and the DEC has listed 7 species of bees and 27 species of butterfly and moth as Species of Greatest Conservation Need.
NYS has 7.3 million acres of agricultural production and many of the state’s leading crops rely on pollination. Because of this, loss of pollinators is an economic issue for the state, where agricultural production totals $6.36 billion and provides 197,745 jobs. By bringing native plant species back to the state, native pollinators will follow, benefitting the economy in the process.
Is it estimated that the private industry will build more than 6,000 acres of solar sites in NYS by 2020 and these facilities often provide an ideal habitat for native meadows because of the large continuous sunny areas. Some solar companies choose to do this, providing critical habitat for native pollinators. The owners then publicly market these land practices to promote the energy that they produce.
Minnesota has had a similar law since May 2016 for owners of ground-mounted solar arrays. There has already been an increase in native plants and pollinators have followed. Based on this, a statewide standard was also passed in Maryland. This has also helped to improve public opinion on solar farms. The success of similar legislation is evidence that establishing guidelines for pollinator protection will be beneficial to New York State.
This bill amends section 16 of the Agricultural and Markets Law by adding a new subdivision 49 authorizing the Department of Agriculture and Markets to develop vegetation management plan guidelines for property owners making claims that they their properties are pollinator friendly or provide benefits and protection to pollinators.