Nick Fetty | June 2, 2016
The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) has joined transportation departments in five other states as well as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in an effort to improve pollinator habitat along Interstate 35.
A memorandum of understanding was signed last week in Des Moines by state transportation officials from Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas as well as the FHWA to protect and improve pollinator habitat along I-35 which serves as a main corridor for Monarch butterflies as they migrate from Mexico to Canada and back every year. The agreement calls for “a cooperative and coordinated effort to establish best practices and promote public awareness of the monarch butterfly, honey bee and pollinator conservation.”
This initiative is part of a bigger effort announced by the Obama Administration in 2014 to promote pollinator health and protect the associated economic impact. Honey bees alone contribute more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. The economic benefits of this initiative can also directly impact the state transportation departments.
“We’ve actually found in Minnesota that restoring prairie along the interstate is not only good for the environment but it helps reduce our maintenance costs,” Minnesota DOT commissioner Charles Zelle told the Associated Press. “Natural prairie grasses and flowers that provide foraging habitat and places to breed, nest and overwinter also don’t have to be mowed as often and help prevent erosion on steep banks.”
I-35 – which the agreement unofficially renames “the Monarch Highway” – stretches 1,500 miles from Laredo, Texas to Duluth, Minnesota.