A decade ago, the U.S. Senate officially created National Pollinator Week as a way to focus on supporting the species of ants, butterflies, beetles and other wildlife that are responsible for helping pollinate more than 80 percent of the world's flowering plants.
To that end, state departments of transportation highlighted their efforts to support pollination, often by changing their plant management practices along roadways under their care.
The Delaware Department of Transportation, for example, is now incorporating more native species and clover into its seed mixes along the 14,000 miles of roadway it manages, while also transitioning to what the agency described as a "reduced mowing regime" that provides wildflowers an opportunity to thrive.
"There are numerous areas along our roads throughout the state that we have regularly mowed just to keep the natural growth down," said Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan in a statement. But that practice effectively created "food deserts" for pollinators who depend on blooming plants, so now while DelDOT continues to mow a safety strip adjacent to a roadway, the land beyond the safety strip is not mowed during most of the growing season to foster the growth of wildflowers and pollination activity.
DelDOT said it is also partnering with other organizations to create more "pollinator habitats," including a new 43-acre pollinator meadow mitigation site outside the town of Middletown, while engaging in voluntary conservation measures along with 24 other energy and transportation organizations to benefit the monarch butterfly and other pollinating species.
In the Midwest, the Kansas Department of Transportation – along with five other state DOTs and the Federal Highway Administration – said it recently signed an agreement that will improve the "pollinator habitat" along I-35, which is considered a key "migratory corridor" for monarch butterflies.
The agency noted that, in the U.S., pollination produces nearly $24 billion worth of products annually, which includes apples, blueberries, almonds, melons, pumpkins, chocolate, and coffee, among other goods.
Last year, KDOT's Environmental Services unit, along with KDOT crews from the Ottawa Subarea, planted approximately 15 acres of wildflower seeds on three plots of land around the Homewood rest area along I-35.
This year, the agency said it received a grant from the Monarch Watch and planted 1,196 milkweed plugs as part of a "habitat restoration project" located at the interchange at U.S. 59 and I-35 east of Ottawa and covering approximately 36 acres.
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