For the past few months, Walmart has used its Hermiston and Pendleton stores for a pollinator garden project to help increase the number of bees and butterflies, which have suffered severe population declines.
The Umatilla County stores — along with 20 other Walmart stores across the country — have a garden outside with flowers and plants to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Wendy Widener, program leader for the Walmart pollinator project, said the pilot project is a way for the national retail corporation to use its size and scale to help with an ongoing environmental issue.
According to national reports, the population loss of honeybees reached 40.7% this year. And the monarch butterfly population has dropped 90% in the past 20 years.
Widener, who works from Walmart’s corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, said a goal of the project is to encourage customers, employees and other community members to plant their own pollinator gardens.
“We hope it really inspires our customers to make a nice garden in their own area,” Widener said.
Pollinator gardens are at Walmart stores in three other Oregon cities — Redmond, Lebanon and Salem. The other gardens are at 14 stores in Washington, one in North Carolina and one at the corporate headquarters in Arkansas. The gardens were planted in April and May.
Walmart chose the locations in the Northwest and North Carolina to launch the project because those areas had willing community partners who helped create the gardens, Widener said.
Next spring, Walmart plans to grow the project and add gardens at more stores.
No decisions have been made about how the project will grow, but plans will be discussed over the winter, Widener said.
Helping to increase the populations of bees and butterflies has a direct benefit to food production. In Oregon, pollinators help grow blueberries, Marionberries, raspberries and pears.
Widener hopes the garden project helps make a difference for the pollinators.
“We want to make our communities and locations more beautiful,” Widener said. “We want to be a partner with the communities and make an impact on the environment.”