FHWA Releases Memo on Pollinator Habitats in Transportation Projects

During consideration of the surface transportation law, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, ASLA took a leadership role in working with Congressmen Jeff Denham (CA) and Alcee Hastings (FL), and the Pollinator Partnership to include the language from the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment (BEE) Pollinator Protection Act, which would encourage state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to use integrated vegetation management (IVM) to achieve healthy pollinator habitats on federal transportation projects. Ultimately, the language was adopted and is now section 1415 of the FAST Act. Securing this provision was a great legislative victory for ASLA that will surely provide increased opportunities for landscape architects to plan and design pollinator habitats in federal transportation networks.

Now, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has weighed in on Section 1415 and has issued a memo that provides guidance, resources, and other tools to help state DOTs create healthy pollinator habitats. The memo also features the work that some states are already doing in this area and how practices may be applied in other jurisdictions.

The memo also highlights a new report, Pollinators and Roadsides: Best Management Practices for Managers and Decision Makers, that provides best management practices and other tools to help achieve pollinator-friendly habitats. The report further underscores how roadsides managed with pollinators in mind can achieve multiple goals of stabilizing roadsides, reducing stormwater pollution, reduced maintenance costs, supporting wildlife, and building public exposure and appreciation for the local landscape. Roadsides with pollinator habitat features such as abundant flowering plants can draw tourists, resulting in positive economic benefits to states and local communities. Additionally, farmers and ranchers may benefit from nearby roadside habitats because of the ecosystem services such as pollination and pest control the habitats support.

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. Landscape architects are leaders in planning and designing transportation projects that include quality vegetation management practices to benefit pollinators, while also reducing maintenance costs and maintaining public safety.

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