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Honeybee hives near Utah State University, July 6, 2005. States are coming up with their own ways to help stop the nationwide honeybee decline. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is holding an open house from 4-7 p.m. Thursday in its second floor auditorium on a preliminary plan and seeks input.

SALT LAKE CITY — A 50 percent decline nationwide in managed honeybees over the last 70 years is driving an all-hands-on-deck response by multiple agencies to counter threats to bees and other pollinators.

Utah has seen its own share of collapses in honeybee populations, which contribute $2 million directly into the state economy via honey production and provide pollination for a $17 million fruit and berry industry.

To that end, Utah is part of a national strategy to stop the precipitous declines in colonies, crafting a preliminary plan of attack that is up for review and the subject of an open house.

Those in the pesticide industry, agricultural industry, beekeepers and interested members of the public are invited to an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the second-floor conference room of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food's building, 350 N. Redwood Road, to view copies of a draft plan.

The event will offer experts on a variety of topics, including best management practices, pest management and outreach and education efforts by the agency.

The plan includes guidelines for both commercial and hobbyist beekeepers, instructions on proper pesticide use, marking hives, advice on what plants to cultivate to encourage pollinators and a whole host of other strategies to combat declines.

Agricultural commissioner LuAnn Adams, in an introduction to the impetus behind the plan, said unexplained mortality rates of bee colonies in Utah have led to tension in some instances between beekeepers and landowners.

She added that the Utah Managed Pollinator Protection Plan is in response to the need to create a balanced public policy that mitigates risks to honeybees but protects the interests of agriculture.

"Reducing honeybee exposure to pesticides is ideal. Our hope is to achieve this while continuing to provide access to habitat that supports bee health and derived benefits to agriculture," she said "Utah’s managed pollinator protection plan is not a static document, but a work in progress. We intend to revisit this document annually and update as needed."

People who want to comment electronically may do so at ag.utah.gov.

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