Shawano should do its part to preserve biodiversity

By: 

Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

“Garden as if life depended on it.” Dr. Douglas Tallamy

Humans can’t live as the only species on earth. It is other species that create the ecosystem essential to our survival.

Bob and Nancy Dumke, owners of the Cobblers Closet in downtown Shawano, are concerned. Bob commented, “We need biodiversity. The ecosystems that support us are run by biodiversity. Each time we force a species to extinction, we promote our own demise. The overwhelming accumulation of scientific data shows a significant loss of pollinators, habitat, native plants and biodiversity.”

Statistics show that in the lower 48 states, 54 percent of the land has been turned into cities, suburbs, highways and shopping malls. Another 41 percent of the land is being used for various forms of agriculture. We humans have taken 95 percent of nature and made it unnatural.

In 1950, the population of the U.S. was 151 million. As of last year, it has risen to 314 million. Dumke commented, “That’s an increase of 163 million and that number will continue growing. That means more urban development. Crops and pasture land will be lost. We continue to lose the habitat needed for our native plants critical to pollinators.”

Why should we care about pollinators? Approximately one-third of the food and drink we consume requires the presence of a pollinator. The four major groups of pollinating insects are bees and wasps; butterflies and moths; flies and beetles.

Insect pollinated fruits and vegetables provide most of the vitamins and minerals we need to diversify our diets beyond meat and wind pollinated grains. Dumke commented, “We can thank our lucky bees for watermelons, pumpkins, strawberries, cocoa beans (chocolate), coffee, oranges, cranberries, carrots, broccoli and on and on.”

Remember bumblebees? How many have you seen lately? In the mid 1990s, the yellow banded bumblebee was the most abundant bumblebee in Wisconsin. Ten years later, it made up less than 1 percent of the state’s bumblebees. Native bee habitat is being destroyed or seriously fragmented with the loss of native flower areas.

When is the last time you’ve seen a Monarch butterfly? Unfortunately, Monarchs are quickly approaching designation as a threatened species! The reason is due primarily to loss of habitat. Monarchs can only reproduce on milkweed plants. They migrate south in the winter and north in the summer. It takes 3-4 generations to complete the migration each way. They feed on other plants but when it comes time to lay eggs, it must be on milkweed! Herbicides have killed millions of acres of milkweed. Although we still have some in our area, other Midwestern states have almost completely destroyed milkweed. With virtually 120-150 million acres of milkweed lost, many of the Monarch butterflies cannot complete their journey and are dying out.

To try to alleviate this bleak picture, a nationwide campaign by the Wild Ones Organization is underway to encourage the planting of milkweed species. If you have available space, perhaps you could consider planting one of the 24 varieties.

A beautifully manicured lawn enhances the appearance of a property. However, if just half of the 40 million acres of lawns were converted to flower gardens/native plantings, we would recover the equivalent of 10 of our largest national parks. By focusing on the use of native plants in the landscaping of our properties, we effectively replace much of the habitat that was lost when our homes were built. If you don’t have property of your own, consider sponsoring some native planting on a relative or friend’s land, at a school or other public place.

What else can we do? The Dumkes have taken on a project in the township of Wescott. They talked with Chairman Mike Schuler about placing native plants on the capped and retired landfill. It is an area of 9 ½ acres. They are working with the DNR and the Wild Ones organization to learn what native plants would be most beneficial. Wescott has set up a designated account where concerned residents can donate toward this project. Donations of native plants or seeds can be dropped off at the Cobblers Closet.

Dumke added, “As stewards of our land, we can help save biodiversity from extinction. I hope residents will consider looking for areas where they can plant native plants. It’s important to our very existence and that of future generations.”

Bob and Nancy had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Doug Tallamy who wrote a wonderful book entitled Bringing Nature Home. The book lists “native plants” and is available at the library.

The answer to the question: In what year was the Shawano Equity Co-Op founded and where was it first located is: 1927 located in the Upham & Russell warehouse.

This week’s question is: Beginning in 1914, the fire whistle blew every day at 10 a.m. Can you guess why?

Lorna Marquardt is the mayor of Shawano