Write Your Rep! Less Mowing, More Monarchs
We’ve made the case that roadsides can be managed for pollinators, while maintaining erosion control, keeping roads safe, improving water quality, and saving money! Now it’s time to make the case to lawmakers, so that they can change the way their state manages roadsides for multiple benefits, including helping bees, butterflies, and other insects.
We’ve provided a sample letter below that explains why they should be managing roadsides to protect pollinators and increase monarch breeding habitat. Why not write to your local representatives and state department of transportation to tell them how much you appreciate their existing efforts to manage roadsides for pollinators or encourage them to adopt wildlife-friendly practices? Feel free to adapt the language in the letter below. In fact, we encourage you to do that. The better this addresses your state’s needs, the more influential it will be.
Find your state Department of Transportation here: https://fhwaapps.fhwa.dot.gov/foisp/staffnetStateDOT.do
The following letter was prepared by Jennifer Hopwood, Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist, Midwest
I am writing today to [FOR LEGISLATOR: ask you to consider introducing legislation that balances roadside management practices with the needs of pollinators.] [FOR STATE DOT: ask you to consider adopting practices that balance roadside management with the needs of pollinators and other wildlife.] Pollinators are crucial to agriculture and to our health, as well as to the health of ecosystems. Using best management practices developed by the Federal Highway Administration, roadsides can be managed for motorist safety, while also showcasing regional beauty, reducing erosion, limiting the spread of weeds, and increasing habitat for game and song birds and pollinators.
Roadside habitat is also important to pollinators such as honey bees and to wild pollinators like bumble bees and the increasingly imperiled monarch butterfly. When monarch butterflies make their annual migration south to overwinter in Mexico, the flowers they find on our roadsides, field margins, yards, and prairies play a crucial role in their survival. Beekeepers rely on the floral resources found along roadsides to support their honey bees. Although it may seem counter intuitive to encourage habitat along roadsides because pollinators are at risk of vehicle collisions, research shows that roadsides with more flowers and those that are mown less frequently have reduced butterfly mortality due to vehicle collisions. Bees and butterflies that are enjoying expanded floral resources are less likely to have to cross busy roads to find food.
There are two main approaches to improve the quality of roadsides as habitat for pollinators: adapting vegetation management practices to reduce their impact on pollinators, and to include native plants, particularly flowering plants, in new revegetation plans. Changes in management that benefit pollinators can also benefit Departments of transportation. For example, reduced mowing (beyond the clear zone) benefits wildflowers and pollinators, and can result in significant savings in maintenance costs (see links below for examples and citations).
In addition to pollinators, roadside vegetation can also provide valuable and important habitat to small wildlife, including game birds like quail and pheasants, as well as song birds. In addition to these benefits, the deep root systems of many native wildflowers are better able to capture runoff that turf grass, greatly reducing the amount of surface pollution and road salts entering our waterways.
Roadsides can be managed to provide a safe driving environment for motorists while also controlling erosion, reducing pollution, and controlling the spread of weeds. Those objectives can also be achieved while also supporting pollinators and birds.
For additional information about the science that relates to roadsides as habitat for pollinators, please see the resources developed by the Xerces Society and the Federal Highway Administration at xerces.org/roadsides
Thanks for your consideration.