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WASHINGTON -- The White House on Friday announced a new effort to save honeybees, birds, bats, insects and other pollinator species that are critical for the nation's fruit, nut and vegetable growers but are dwindling rapidly.

California's $4.8 billion almond industry -- the world's biggest -- is especially imperiled because the crops are exclusively pollinated by honeybees, which have experienced dramatic declines over the past 60 years, the White House said.

Habitat loss, mite infestations, the loss of genetic diversity and increased exposure to pesticides are some of the reasons why there are only 2.5 million beehives in the U.S. today compared to 6 million in 1947, the White House said in a statement.

President Barack Obama ordered the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency to lead a government-wide effort to understand precisely why honey bees, Monarch butterflies and other species are dying off and figure out ways to stem the declines. The Obama administration also pledged to set aside more federal land for conservation purposes so pollinating species could thrive there.

Bees, butterflies and other species are instrumental in the production of $24 billion worth of crops, with honeybees alone accounting for $15 billion, the White House said.

The U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments agreed in February to do more to conserve the Monarch butterfly, whose annual migratory route runs through the three nations.

Also Friday, the Agriculture Department announced $8 million to encourage beekeepers in Michigan, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin -- which account for more than half the nation's commercial honeybee industry -- to set aside more land to boost bee habitat.

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