KAWARTHA LAKES – As Kerri Debnam retires from her role as a much-loved pet groomer, she is spreading her wings and trying new things after she was recently accepted into the 2021 Butterflyway Ranger Program with the David Suzuki Foundation.
The goal of the Butterflyway Project is a volunteer-led movement to establish habitat for local bees and butterflies in communities throughout the country.
“I’m a nature enthusiast in any way, birds, animals and I’ve always been like that, I retired from grooming and this is part of what I’m interested in as a past time,” said Debnam. “I’ve got lots of gardens around my property, before I knew about this initiative, I began to add native plants for pollinators. I’ve always been enthusiastic about that.”
Since 2017, the program has recruited various volunteers from communities throughout Canada to become Butterflyway Rangers. Those who are community builders, nature lovers, dedicated individuals with talents and skills to share with others in their communities have been selected.
Rangers represent the Butterflyway Project in their communities. They get online leadership training and learn skills to influence and bring people together. Debnam will continue to learn about bees, butterflies and wildflowers and will also have the opportunity to meet fellow volunteers through the national Butterflyway Rangers network.
Each Ranger is tasked with organizing a small local team to help them plant at least a dozen pollinator patches. Rangers receive online training from David Suzuki Foundation staff and national experts through monthly webinars and online meetups with fellow Rangers.
Debnam is now part of an inspiring national network of more than 1,000 doers and leaders.
According to Debnam, originally 40 new rangers were going to be chosen across the country for 2021, but the turnout and interest was so vast that over 700 rangers flew into action and joined the initiative.
“I want people to be aware of native pollinating plants and how to plant a garden to attract bees and butterflies, native pollinators are on the decline so anything we can do to help out,” said Debnam. “Right now, with the pandemic, this is a much-needed distraction, being outside and having a purpose is great for mental health.”
Butterflyway Rangers are expected to help make their communities greener and healthier with various planting projects and community events to create opportunities, connect people and champion ideas.
In her new role as the Butterflyway Ranger, Debnam has joined forces with the Pollinator Action Committee, the Kawartha Lakes Environmental Advisory Committee, and Bee City.
“I think the Butterflyway Ranger is a wonderful initiative that brings awareness to the importance of pollinators. This program is much like the Kawartha Lakes Bee City Pollinator Pathway which encourages everyone to plant pollinator friendly patches or gardens,” said Pat Warren, Chair, Bee City, Kawartha Lakes, Kawartha Lakes Environmental Advisory Committee. “We are joining forces this year to get the word out!”
Together they will launch the second annual Bee A Hero 2021 City of Kawartha Lakes Pollinator Garden Challenge.
“We are sounding the alarm that many pollinators are threatened and since most of our food relies on them to pollinate , we need to develop programs that help,” said Warren. “During Covid , we wanted to help everyone to get in their gardens and at the same time , plant a garden or container garden that would help our pollinators.”
According to Bee City, native pollinators are disappearing at an unexpected rate. Those who participate can help by creating a pollinator habitat in a back yard or on a balcony.
One third of all the food we eat is thanks to amazing pollination services, noted Bee City officials.
Anyone can participate by planting pollinator-friendly plants and participants are asked to take a picture of the garden before it is planted and another picture at the end of July. According to Warren, winners will receive a gift certificate from a native plant nursery.
Native pollinator plants are best but according to Bee City, any single flower plant that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides will be sufficient.
“For a pollinator patch we are looking for them to be composed of a minimum, 50 per cent native species,” said Debnam. “Native wildflowers are adapted to the local climate, require less care and watering, adapted to local insects and soils and don’t need fertilizers and pesticides.”
She noted that some of the best plant choices are Woodland Sunflowers, Liatris, Dense Blazing Star, Goldenrod, Wild Geranium, Bee Balm, Milkweed, Coneflowers, Culver’s Root, Evening Primrose and Joe Pye Weed but there are many more.
Jennifer decided to study journalism after having a life long passion
for writing. She began her career as a reporter for the Uxbridge Times
Journal and moved on to freelance work for various publications after
her and her husband welcomed their daughters. She has been published in
various Durham Region newspapers, the Durham Parent Magazine as well as
Equine Wellness. Jennifer continues to follow her dreams as a wife,
mother and journalist and is so excited to join the team at Kawartha411.