Key Issues > Duplication & Cost Savings > GAO's Action Tracker > Federal Actions to Protect Pollinators and Improve Agricultural Production (2017-01)
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Agriculture: Federal Actions to Protect Pollinators and Improve Agricultural Production (2017-01)

A coordinated federal approach to monitoring the status of wild, native bees would reduce the potential for fragmentation and improve understanding of their population status and threats to their health.

Action:

To improve the effectiveness of federal efforts to monitor wild, native bee populations, GAO recommends that the Secretary of Agriculture, as a co-chair of the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, coordinate with other Task Force agencies that have monitoring responsibilities to develop a mechanism, such as a federal monitoring plan, that would (1) establish roles and responsibilities of lead and support agencies, (2) establish shared outcomes and goals, and (3) obtain input from relevant stakeholders, such as states.

Progress:

As of January 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had taken important actions but had not yet fully implemented GAO's February 2016 recommendation for monitoring wild, native bees. USDA has taken several actions needed for the National Native Bee Monitoring Research Coordination Network to develop a native bee monitoring plan over the past few years.

In 2017, USDA held a stakeholder listening session to obtain public input on the monitoring program, led a symposium to discuss the input, and gathered additional recommendations from symposium participants based on monitoring programs for other declining species of concern, such as birds, bats, and butterflies.

In 2018, USDA sponsored a 4-day scientific workshop to discuss a national native bee health monitoring program.

in 2019, USDA and university scientists wrote a paper, which they plan to publish in a peer-reviewed journal, with scientific recommendations on a national native bee monitoring strategy, based on scientific expert opinion gathered from (1) university and government experts on bees, (2) statisticians, (3) modelers and ecologists, and (4) conservation biologists.

According to a senior USDA official, a National Native Bee Monitoring Research Coordination Network is being formed to address GAO's recommendation to develop a federal monitoring plan for wild, native bees, with the project expected to begin in spring 2020. Some USDA officials told us that without a team to coordinate a monitoring plan, individual agency efforts may be ineffective in providing the needed information in trends on wild, native bees in the United States.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Agriculture
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    • Steve Morris
    • Director, Natural Resources and Environment
    • morriss@gao.gov
    • 202-512-3841