Pollinator Friendly Or Overgrown Mess? How One State Is Rethinking Property Codes


Are more naturalized yards that support pollinators becoming more acceptable? Or do we still embrace neighborhood standards—either formal or implied—that dictate a yard be well kept primarily with grass that is trimmed and manicured? What is the line between pollinator friendly and an overgrown, messy hazard? In Minnesota, this debate is currently being considered in a recently introduced bill.

State Representative Rick Hansen, chair of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee has introduced a bill that would require all MN cities to permit native landscapes. “You do have a lot of cities with ordinances that the traditional lawn is the standard. Having something different and having a diverse landscape is more healthy,” Hansen told the MinnPost in an Oct. 8 article. But there are restrictions. ““Except as part of a managed natural landscape…, any weeds or grasses growing… to a greater height than eight inches or that have gone or are about to go to seed are prohibited,” he continued.Pollinator

He told the MinnPost it’s a natural next step in the Lawns to Legumes program, previously profiled in Turf, which provides modest financial incentives for homeowners to convert some or all of their lawns to native gardens that support pollinators, especially the rusty patched bumblebee.

To date, 44 Minnesota cities have adopted resolutions declaring themselves pollinator friendly cities, but laws on grass height and weeds are still commonplace nationwide and can lead to conflicts—and even court cases—between property owners and municipalities. Lawns to Legumes tries to address such conflicts by posting model ordinances and advocating “cues for care,” such as layout, edging, and signage in pollinator friendly yards, says the MinnPost.

Another program in West St. Paul, MN is also experimenting with the idea of more pollinator friendly yards, according to the MinnPost article. Dubbed, “No Mow May,” the city temporarily suspended its rules on keeping grass shorter than eight inches for a month to provide more habitat.

As expected, it received mixed reviews—including calls to code enforcers. “Once they explained that, ‘Hey, people are doing it for a reason’ and not just because they are lazy, people seemed to be a little more forgiving of it and not so worked up,” city Council member Wendy Barry told the MinnPost. “We had a lot of complaints about it, but also a lot of people who were pretty excited about it. You could tell when you drove down a block who was pro No Mow May and who had had enough…. Not everyone is on board when it comes to long grass,” Berry said. “I’m sure my dad would have had a fit.”

For the full story, ‘Native landscape’ bill would make Minnesota cities more pollinator friendly, one lawn at a time,” by Peter Callaghan, click here.