Plots encourage native plants, animals to thrive

A moth, native to the area, lands on a plant in one of the Nebraska Game and Park’s pollinator plots. The plots are planted with the intention of assisting native wildlife and educating the public on the importance of local species.

Nebraska Game and Parks is taking steps to make life easier for native animals and pollinators, involving youth and educating area residents in the process. In conjunction with Pheasants Forever, NGPC has taken several plots of land near the fish hatchery south of North Platte, and planted them with over 100 native plants.

Drew Larsen, with Pheasants Forever, said this is the third year for the project, which is called Youth Pollinator Habitat. They add on to the site each year. This year Kids Klub students came out in March and helped plant. When NGPC conducts other events they swing by the plots and use them to inform the public about the importance of the native plants.

Larsen said they receive local donations along with grants from National Pheasants Forever, which funds similar projects all over the country.

Next week is Nebraska Pollinator Week, and a number of North Platte businesses will give out information and accept donations for the local Youth Pollinator Habitat.

The project assists pollinating insects in their hunt for nectar. Andy Moore, a biologist for NGPC, said that the plots are also incredibly helpful to native birds such as pheasants and quail looking for nesting sites and nourishment.

Prior to the planting, the land had been covered with smooth brome grass. The grass is generally seen as a weed and does not provide much for native creatures. When the snow comes in the winter, it will knock the grass flat, leaving one specific animal looking for a new option.

“Quail is a species that requires a very specific type of habitat,” Moore said. “When the chicks hatch out, they need to be able to move around and have access to ants, little soft-bodied insects, crickets, spiders, you name it. For that habitat you need plants that are knee-high by this time of year and have a canopy with bare ground underneath.”

From 7 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday the public is invited to help with a another pollinator planting. This one will be at Buffalo Bill State Recreation Area (Buffalo Bill Campground) and will focus on milkweeds, to attract monarch butterflies. Monarchs rely exclusively on milkweeds for food and to lay their eggs. Moore said the hope is that the plants will help to restore the dwindling monarch population.

The event will feature a presentation about the different pollinators and their importance and how to start a pollinator garden at home. Also there will be activities for all ages. Following the presentation, visitors will be able to help plant milkweed plants.

People will need state park permits on their vehicles, to participate in the activity at the campground.

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