Every 10 days, Paul Limbach loads teetering beehives onto his white flatbed truck and follows dusty roads through the White River National Forest up to the alpine meadows of the sprawling Flat Tops Wilderness Area.


It’s a long drive from his home in Silt, Colorado, but the Flat Tops are one of his favorite places to work. Here, rolling fields of purple lupine, yellow cone flowers and wild geranium abut thick aspen forests. In a good year, the days are just long enough to transform a honey trickle into a golden flow.


In the summer of 2015 I visited Limbach at his hives for a story on beekeeping on federal land for High Country News magazine. When Obama announced his pollinator health strategy that spring, he advocated for increased access to public lands for beekeepers. Conservationists fought back, arguing that honey bees aren't native to the United States and endanger native bumblebee populations—an intriguing policy quagmire.