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Helping Pollinators on the Road to Survival

By Jennifer Hopwood on 30. March 2016
Jennifer Hopwood

Roadsides can support a rich diversity of native plants and their pollinators, and form extensive networks of habitat that crisscross our landscapes. 

On Monday, March 28, the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a memo regarding the pollinator provisions in section 1415 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, and announcing the release of “Pollinators and Roadsides: Best Management Practices for Managers and Decision Makers.” The report can be read on the FHWA web site, where you can also download the report as a PDF.

The best management practices were written by staff of ICF International and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, under contract with the FHWA. This report is the second document produced by these two organizations for the FHWA. The first was a comprehensive literature review of peer-reviewed and technical material, which was released in May 2015. The literature review is also available on the FHWA website.


Roadsides can support a rich diversity of native plants and their pollinators, and form extensive networks of habitat that crisscross our landscapes. (Photograph by Jennifer Hopwood, The Xerces Society.)


Declines of bees and butterflies have focused attention on efforts to help pollinators through habitat restoration and habitat management. With an estimated 17 million acres of roadsides in the care of state transportation agencies in the United States, managing roadsides is a significant conservation opportunity for pollinators. Roadsides form an extensive network of habitats that crisscross our landscapes. In many areas, particularly urban and intensely farmed regions, roadsides may provide the only natural or semi-natural habitat.

The value of America’s roadsides for pollinators was underscored by the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, released by the White House in 2015. In outlining ways to address the decline of pollinators across the United States, the strategy included a specific directive to improve habitat on roadside rights-of-way. Since then, the FHWA has taken great strides to guide efforts to protect pollinators and their habitats on roadsides.

Roadside vegetation can provide much needed habitat for pollinators, providing food, shelter, and connections to other patches of habitat. Roadside managers, maintenance staff, and landscape designers can all take steps to improve the quality of roadside vegetation to benefit pollinators, steps that can also reduce costs, maintain public safety, and improve public good will.

To learn more about pollinators and roadsides, read the article, “Pollinator Conservation at Sixty Miles an Hour,” which was published in the spring 2015 issue of Wings. Essays on Invertebrate Conservation.


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