Barickman passes legislation to encourage pollinator-friendly solar sites

Springfield – Monarch butterfly and honeybee populations could soon receive help to stop the loss of their habitats, thanks to legislation filed by State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) and passed by the Illinois Senate.

“Increasing the amount of habitat for honeybees and butterflies is good for the environment, for farmers and other growers, and for economic growth,” said Sen. Barickman. “We have an opportunity to add substantial habitat acres by creating guidelines that will assist interested solar site owners and operators to convert otherwise wasted space into natural habitat.”

Barickman’s legislation, Senate Bill 3214, creates standards that will allow the Department of Natural Resources to score how friendly a solar site is to pollinators. The standards will focus on the use of native perennial vegetation and habitat that is beneficial to pollinators, game birds and songbirds, as well as reducing storm water runoff and erosion at the solar site. The scoring will allow sites that meet the requirements to designate themselves as “pollinator friendly.”

A single 10-acre solar site offers more total habitat than 5,000 6’ x 12’ backyard pollinator gardens. As solar generation increases in the state, the total amount of potential pollinator habitat will soon become quite large.

Proponents believe the new program could also provide a boost to economic development, as site owners purchase seeds, plants, and hire workers to develop pollinator habitat.

“This is a completely voluntary program. There are no new zoning requirements or mandates placed on anyone,” said Sen. Barickman. “We have solar sites that are interested in and have asked for this program. This is a situation where we can offer a boost to our businesses while helping improve our environment. That’s a true win-win.”

The legislation is an initiative of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

“Illinois will see extraordinary growth in solar development in the next few years. Senator Barickman’s legislation will encourage expanded use of wildflowers and native plants to create high quality pollinator habitat at these solar sites,” said Al Grosboll, Legislative Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Grosboll added, “We applaud the Senate for passing Senate Bill 3214 and thank Senator Barickman for his work on this issue.”

Senate Bill 3214 passed the Senate unanimously and is now headed to the Illinois House of Representatives for consideration in that chamber.

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