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Spokane Valley legislator’s bill: ‘bee’ helpful to pollinators

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(The Center Square) – A Spokane Valley legislator’s measure to help honeybees and other pollinator species cleared the state Senate earlier this week with near-unanimous support and now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 5934 was introduced by 4th District Republican Sen. Mike Padden to promote the use of “pollinator-friendly” shrubs and bushes in landscaping, including those on public lands.

Padden said bees, butterflies, and other species play a “very important role in the pollination of crops, contributing to the production of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.”

The bill passed the Senate Monday in a 48-1 vote and is now scheduled for a public hearing by the House Local Government Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 10:30 a.m.

Under an amended version of the bill, local governments may encourage but not require applicants for projects or commercial building permits to include pollinator-friendly plants in landscaped areas. The proposed measure also says cities and counties may set restrictions related to beehives, but cannot adopt an ordinance which bans beehives. And homeowner associations and other “common interest” communities may not prohibit installation of pollinator habitat, including beehives that comply with local regulations.

Padden credited a Mount Spokane High School student, senior Julia Costello, for approaching him last fall to sponsor the measure.

“Julia is a Girl Scout working to finish requirements to earn the Gold Award, which is equivalent to earning the Eagle Scout award as a Boy Scout,” Padden said on his legislative website. “One of Julia’s Gold Award requirements is working with a legislator on sponsoring a bill. Julia made a compelling case why improving pollinators’ habitat is beneficial. I’m pleased the Senate passed this bill and I hope the House will do likewise this session. It has been an honor and pleasure to work with her.”

During a Jan. 11 hearing by the Senate Committee on Local Government, Land Use & Tribal Affairs, Costello testified in favor of the bill along with Katie Buckley of the state Department of Agriculture. Padden said he also received a support letter last month from Spokane Conservation District director Vicki Carter, who wrote that pollinators’ “vital role in sustaining agriculture cannot be overstated, as approximately 75% of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators for successful reproduction.”

The measure also has bipartisan co-sponsorship from Senate Democrats Kevin Van De Wege, Manka Dhingra, Marko Liias, and Jesse Salomon and Republican Judy Warnick of Moses Lake, whose 13th Legislative District in central Washington is one of the most diverse and productive agricultural regions in the state.

The importance of pollinators in agriculture was underscored in 2020 when Washington State University opened its Honey Bee & Pollinator Research, Extension and Education Facility near Othello in the Columbia Basin.

“The seed crops we grew are so dependent on healthy pollinators,” Ken Christianson, a retired seed grower and WSU alum said at the time. “The WSU bee program and the work they do is so essential to the future of agriculture and feeding the planet.”

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