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10 Minnesota Schools Receive Pollinator Grants

Ten Minnesota high schools have been awarded grants to establish habitat for imperiled insect pollinators and monarch butterflies.

The pollinator habitat grants were awarded by Sand County Foundation and Enel Green Power North America Inc. to Minnesota agricultural and science educators.

Each grant recipient will receive native wildflower seedlings, a training webinar and consultation, and a $1,000 grant for the school district or FFA chapter to offset project expenses.

The schools selected are:

  • Central High School, Norwood Young America (Carver County)
  • Chisago Lakes High School, Lindstrom (Chisago County)
  • DREAM Technical Academy, Willmar (Kandiyohi County)
  • New London-Spicer, New London (Kandiyohi County)
  • Rosa Parks Charter High School, Rochester (Olmstead County)
  • Owatonna High School, Owatonna (Steele County)
  • NRHEG High School, New Richland (Steele and Waseca counties)
  • Buffalo High School, Buffalo (Wright County)
  • Dassel-Cokato High School, Cokato (Wright County)
  • Jane Goodall Environmental Sciences Academy, Maple Lake (Wright County)

“Our objective is to engage students in adding native wildflower diversity to rural areas for the benefit of pollinators and Monarch butterflies,” said Craig Ficenec, Sand County Foundation program director. “Pollinators are essential for crop pollination and ecological diversity, but the numbers of wild bees and monarch butterflies have dropped, partly because of the loss of native wildflower habitat near farmland.”

To qualify for the grants, the schools needed greenhouses or suitable indoor growing areas to raise the nearly 600 seedlings of milkweed, prairie blazing star, wild bergamot, and other species they will receive in March. They were also required to identify a rural area (preferably a farm) where they will transplant these native wildflowers in the spring, and tend to them through the summer.

“These pollinator habitat grants, administered in partnership with Sand County Foundation, reflect Enel Green Power’s commitment to creating shared value within communities where we operate,” said Marcus Krembs, Sustainability Director for Enel Green Power North America. “Participating educators and students are addressing the critical issue of pollinator population decline through hands-on STEM activities, while cultivating a future where solar farms and agriculture co-exist and create long-term, mutual benefits.”

“For transplanting, we encouraged applicants to find nooks and crannies on the working landscape. For example, fencerows on farms and land under energy infrastructure,” Ficenec added.

The project’s sponsor, Enel Green Power North America Inc., is the operator of the 150 MWdc (megawatt direct current) Aurora distributed solar project in Minnesota. Awarded schools were located within or adjacent to a county where one of the Aurora solar project’s 16 photovoltaic plants are located. The Aurora solar project began operations in 2017 and is the largest solar project in Enel Green Power North America’s portfolio. Also in Minnesota, Enel Green Power owns and operates the 200 MW Prairie Rose wind project and the 30 MW Minnesota wind project.

Sand County Foundation is a national non-profit based in Wisconsin that champions voluntary conservation practices by farmers and ranchers to improve soil, water and wildlife habitat.

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