SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Bees, butterflies, and other insects that pollinate native plant species are disappearing at an alarming rate. As part of a comprehensive effort to expand pollinator-friendly habitat in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is launching a new initiative involving planting pollinator habitat on solar energy sites in the state.
“Some pollinator species, such as the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, have reached critically low population levels and are listed on the federal endangered species list. Others, like the Monarch Butterfly, are being considered for listing as a threatened or endangered species,” said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan. “Planting pollinator-friendly habitat is one of the best ways to improve pollinator populations.”
Opportunities to create and enhance pollinator habitat exist statewide — from private yards to roadways, and from farms to parks and natural areas. The new initiative to encourage pollinator friendly-habitat on solar energy sites is intended to complement those efforts.
In 2018, the State of Illinois enacted the Pollinator-Friendly Solar Site Act (525 ILCS 55/). This law required the IDNR to create a scorecard, with consultation from the University of Illinois. Before an owner of a solar site can claim to be pollinator friendly, they must achieve a passing score on the scorecard, make the scorecard available to the public, and provide a copy of the scorecard and vegetation management plan to the IDNR and a nonprofit solar industry trade association of the state.
While similar legislation passed in Michigan and Maryland, the Illinois Pollinator-Friendly Solar Site Act differs by creating two different scorecards to support the planning of habitat and the evaluation of established habitat. Both scorecards include factors like the number of flowering plants and amount of the solar site that is covered in native species.
The planning scorecard is based on what is planned to be on the site and gives the owner preliminary recognition as “Pollinator-Friendly” for the first three years, giving the habitat time to grow and be used by pollinators. The second scorecard is used to evaluate established habitat to ensure what was planned is what is on the ground. This established habitat scorecard must be completed every five years for a site to retain recognition as pollinator-friendly.
The IDNR is providing Solar Site Pollinator Establishment Guidelines and the Illinois Solar Site Pollinator Habitat Planning Form to help owners and managers of solar sites meet the requirements of the scorecards. These documents, the scorecards and other helpful links can be found online at https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/conservation/pollinatorscorecard/Pages/default.aspx