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A plea from the birds and the bees

To the Editor:

Rachel Carson’s seminal book “Silent Spring” sparked the modern environmental movement, Earth Day, and, ultimately, the Environmental Protection Agency. Unfortunately, our springs are getting more silent: The National Audubon Society reported that 389 bird species are “on the brink” of extinction because of climate change and habitat destruction (, April 23, 2021).

Thankfully the Biden administration is reversing the worst environmental moves of the Trump years, starting with rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. Though I know the environment is in better hands, at least for a while, I can’t sit back and do nothing. It’s up to me, and it’s up to us, to take better care of our own properties, neighborhoods, cities, and towns because the environment is still in danger.

Vermont’s annual Green Up Day was this past weekend. Now, as we prepare our yards and gardens for summer, please consider leaving them as wild as possible. Leave the leaves, dead flowerheads, and stalks – fireflies and other larvae, beetles, bees, and bugs overwinter in them.

Once the plants start growing again, the stalks can be removed and put in the compost. The leaves can be mowed down where they are, making a natural, and free, fertilizing mulch for your grass.

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Speaking of grass, mow it higher. Taller grass shades the soil, keeping it cooler, so it needs less water.

Turn off or dim outside lights at night. Lightning bugs and migrating birds are confused by bright lights that throw them off course or cause them to crash into buildings. To help combat that, several big cities, including Dallas, Pittsburgh, New York, and several in Colorado, are now dimming or turning off building lights during seasonal migration times. Maybe Bennington can do the same?

Add wildflowers and native plants and trees to your gardens to attract more birds, butterflies, and bees. I urge all Vermonters to research “pollinator-friendly landscaping” for ideas and resources to improve the overall health of your yards. For one thing, wild and native plants require less maintenance and water than non-natives.

Our gardens and yards might not be picture-perfect to our eyes, but they will be to the creatures. It’s a matter of perspective. As we become better stewards of the little pieces of the environment for which we’re responsible, we contribute to the well-being of the earth and all our relatives, human and non-human. And we’ll still hear birdsong in the spring.

Genie Rayner



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