Sarina Jepsen, Endangered Species Program Director, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
(971) 244-3727 | [email protected]
PORTLAND, Ore.; Monday, November 15, 2021---Today president Biden signed the $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Infrastructure act includes funding for roads and bridges, transit and rail, airports, ports and waterways, electric vehicles, broadband, the electricity grid and more. It also contains funding for pollinators.
Funding through the act will help make roadsides more pollinator friendly. The act authorizes the U.S. Department of Transportation to make $2 million in grants each year over the next five years for states ($10 million total), Native American tribes, and federal agencies to carry out activities that benefit pollinators and monarch butterflies along the roads and highways they oversee. This would include planting native flowers, adopting pollinator-friendly land management practices, and removing non-native vegetation.
Specifically, grants would provide funding to:
- Planting or seeding locally appropriate native wildflowers and grasses, including milkweed and other host plants for butterfly larvae, on roadsides and highway rights of way to enhance pollinator habitat;
- Change mowing strategies to promote early successional vegetation (flowers and grasses) and limit disturbance during periods of highest use by target pollinator species;
- Remove nonnative grasses from planting and seeding mixes; and
- Implement integrated vegetation management plans.
“Pollinators are critical to our food supply as well as to the health of ecosystems, and studies show they are worth $34 billion a year to the US economy,” said Scott Black, Executive Director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide needed funding to protect and manage habitat for these vital animals across thousands of miles of roadsides.”
Wild pollinators such as the monarch butterfly and a number of bumble bee species are in decline. Studies show that many native wild bee species are at risk of extinction, including over 25% of North American bumble bees. Monarch butterfly populations have declined by over 80% in the eastern U.S. and over 99.9% in the western states. Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the monarch butterfly met the criteria for being listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
With more than 10 million acres of land along roadsides in the U.S. alone, transportation rights-of-way are a significant, yet often overlooked resource for pollinator conservation. Roadsides can benefit pollinators by providing flowers for collecting pollen and nectar; places to breed, nest, and overwinter; and may act as corridors, linking patches of fragmented habitat. In landscapes that have been highly altered, roadsides are some of the last remaining habitat for pollinators.
“Providing funding for roadside pollinator habitat can help bees, monarch butterflies and other flower visitors,” said Sarina Jepsen, Director of the Endangered Species program at the Xerces Society. “The good news is that transportation agencies can adjust practices to help pollinators without compromising safety or other primary objectives.”
The language in the Infrastructure Act was originally introduced as the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act of 2021 by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and by Representatives Jimmy Panetta and Salud Carbajal of California.
The following organizations signed a letter of support for the Monarch and Pollinator Highway (MPH) Act of 2021.
Aerulean Plant Identification Systems Inc., American Public Gardens Association, Azul, Blank Park Zoo, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, Center for Biological Diversity, Corazon Latino, Duluth Monarch Buddies, Earth Discovery Institute, Entomological Society of America, Environment America, Ford Field and River Club, Friends of the Earth, GMO/Toxin Free USA, Grayson Neighborhood Council, GreenLatinos, GT Butterfly House & Bug Zoo, Hispanic Access Foundation, Houston Wilderness, Kansas Rural Center, Leaders4EARTH, Milkweed Matters, Monarch Alert, Monarch Butterfly Fund, National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Mexico BioPark Society, Oregon Zoo, Organic Consumers Association, Pennies for Monarchs, People and Pollinators Action Network, Pollinator Friendly Alliance, Pollinator Partnership, Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County, River Partners, San Diego Zoo Global, Slater Museum of Natural History, The FREED Peoples, Toxic Free North Carolina, USA National Phenology Network, Utah Monarch Advocates, Valley Improvement Projects, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
ABOUT THE XERCES SOCIETY FOR INVERTEBRATE CONSERVATION
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation protects the natural world by conserving invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is a trusted source for science-based information and advice and plays a leading role in protecting pollinators and many other invertebrates. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, plant ecology, education, community engagement, pesticides, farming and conservation biology with a single passion: Protecting the life that sustains us. To learn more, visit xerces.org or follow us @xercessociety on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.