Fort Sill blooms with new pollinator program

By Chris GardnerApril 3, 2024

Fort Sill Blooms with New Pollinator Program
Beta Club volunteers stand in a freshly cleaned and planted flower bed at the Natural Resources compound on Fort Sill, Oklahoma. From left, CLEO Carmella Hill, 10th graders Aaryn Barker, Alaya Price, Andi White, and 12th grader Laurel Hill, celebrate the completion of their pollinator program project. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT SILL, Okla., (April 2, 2024) — Fort Sill's Natural Resources division, in collaboration with Cache Public School's Beta Club, has launched a pollinator planting program to help strengthen the ecosystem by creating habitats for essential pollinator species.

Wildlife specialist Victoria White from Natural Resources and her daughter Andi White, a Cache Beta Club member, led this initiative. On March 9, the program began with volunteers cleaning up and preparing garden plots next to the Natural Resources buildings as part of a broader mission to safeguard pollinators, crucial for every bite of food we consume.

Victoria White said, "The Beta Club spent the first day cleaning the gardens adjacent to the buildings. We aim to sustain this effort and hope to extend it to more areas on the installation."

Bees, birds, and butterflies, playing pivotal roles in our food system and ecosystem health, face threats from habitat loss and environmental changes. This Fort Sill program aims to provide a sanctuary for these species, with a focus on monarch butterflies, bumblebees, and Argos skippers among others.

By choosing a monarch seed mix that appeals to a broad range of pollinators, the project seeks to replace irises with plants offering better habitat and food sources for these vital species. "The monarch mixture will attract all pollinators, benefiting the entire installation," Victoria said.

The Beta Club's commitment to academic achievement, character, leadership, and service made it an ideal partner for this project. Inspired by her mother's work on a pollinator conservation guide, Andi White initiated the project to support the club's service missions and assist local pollinator populations.

"My goal is to excite younger kids about contributing to their community and to demonstrate that giving back can be both fun and rewarding," Andi said, highlighting her aspirations for the project and its community impact.

A memorable moment for Andi came when her father spent hours digging up a pecan tree from a garden bed. "He had to excavate a huge hole just to get a tiny pecan tree out of one of our beds," she recalled. "Seeing him sitting cross-legged in a massive hole after two and a half hours was quite the sight!"

The program's success hinges on the flowering of plants and the attraction of pollinators, with the club eagerly anticipating results this summer. The public gardens, located around the Natural Resource buildings, welcome visitors to explore.

Victoria and Andi aspire to expand the program, creating additional pollinator-friendly spaces throughout Fort Sill. "Pollinators form the foundation of ecosystems, necessitating our protection and appreciation," Victoria said. "These gardens and mini habitats enable us to do just that, all while safeguarding the training mission."

The pollinator planting program marks a significant move towards environmental stewardship and community engagement at Fort Sill, exemplifying how military installations can play a role in global conservation efforts.