New Maryland Law Will Protect State Pollinator Habitat
Law signed today will ban harmful pesticides on state designated pollinator habitat
Annapolis, MD (May 25, 2017) – Today Governor Larry Hogan will sign SB 386/HB 830, sponsored by Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D-44) and Delegate Anne Healey (D-22), which prohibits pesticides known to harm pollinators on state land designated as pollinator habitat.
“Keeping state pollinator habitat free of harmful pesticides will help protect our bees, food supply and the environment,” said Ruth Berlin, executive director of the Maryland Pesticide Education Network. “Maryland is demonstrating once again that we are a national leader in pollinator protection.”
Bees and other pollinators are at risk due, in part, to toxic pesticides and a lack of habitat. Last year, Maryland passed the Pollinator Habitat Plans law to designate pollinator habitat on state agency lands. The bill requires the State Highway Administration and Maryland’s Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Services to establish a pollinator habitat plan for lands owned or managed by that agency. However, the law did not prohibit the use of harmful pesticides on the designated habitat. Advocates were concerned that if harmful pesticides were used on pollinator habitat, Maryland could end up harming the very species we were intending to protect.
This bill to be signed today ensures that designated state pollinator habitats do not use pesticides labeled as toxic to bees or apply pollinator-harming neonicotinoid (“neonic”) pesticides, as well as not use seeds or plants treated with a neonicotinoid pesticide. The bill allows exceptions for public health emergencies and gives state agencies freedom to designate which of their lands are protected pollinator habitat and which are not.
“This is the first law in the country to require that pollinator habitat planted on government land must be neonic-free and free of pesticides labeled toxic to bees,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Maryland is showing the nation the importance of standing up for pollinators.”
Last year’s Pollinator Protection Act made the General Assembly the first legislature in the country to restrict consumer use of neonics, which are known to kill and harm bees and other pollinators.
A preponderance of research confirms that neonic pesticides kill and harm bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinators. Other pesticides are also known to be toxic to pollinators, as well. Proponents of the bill say lower-toxicity alternatives to neonics are widely available, and many neonic-free plants and seeds are no more expensive than plants treated with neonics.
“It’s encouraging that as a state with one of the highest rates of bee deaths in the country, Maryland is leading the country to protect our pollinators,” said Bonnie Raindrop, legislative chair of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, who lost all of her bee hives over the winter.
Maryland bees are dying at alarming rates. Maryland beekeepers lost 56 percent of their hives last year, which follows a 61 percent loss in 2015. Experts say annual losses beyond 15 percent are unsustainable for beekeepers.
The Smart on Pesticides Maryland coalition, spearheaded by the Maryland Pesticide Education Network, works to protect Marylanders and the natural systems we depend upon from the toxic impacts of pesticides. The coalition includes 80 organizations, and institutions representing communities, businesses, health care providers, farmers, environmentalists, waterkeepers, interfaith congregants as well as environmental justice, public health and wildlife advocates.