MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
A 2014 Presidential Memorandum promoting pollinator habitat in light of recent population declines has prompted strong interest in the use of roadside rights of way to promote native plants and support habitats for pollinators. MnDOT would like to learn about the experiences of other state departments of transportation and local agencies in maintaining pollinator landscapes on highway ROWs through partnerships with individuals, groups or local agencies.
In this Transportation Research Synthesis, results of a literature review are supplemented with findings from a survey of selected state DOTs and Minnesota counties. Nine state DOTs describe current practices or plans to develop new pollinator-specific partnerships; existing partnerships that have been expanded to address pollinators; and Adopt-a-Highway programs that support maintenance of vegetation in the ROW.
A 2014 Presidential Memorandum promoting pollinator habitat in light of recent population declines has prompted strong interest in the use of roadside rights of way to promote native plants and support habitats for pollinators.
The following are just a few of the benefits provided by pollinators:
- Pollination for native plant communities.
- Food and habitat for wildlife.
- Pollination for crops that support humans.
- Purification of drainage and buffering of waterways.
- Prevention of soil erosion.
- Aesthetics along roadways
MnDOT is interested in learning about the experiences of other state departments of transportation and local agencies in maintaining pollinator landscapes on highway ROWs through partnerships with individuals, groups or local agencies. Of particular interest are the ways in which these programs are developed, managed and funded, and how these efforts may relate to existing roadside maintenance programs such as Adopt-a-Highway and landscape partnership programs.
Summary of Findings
This Transportation Research Synthesis is divided into three sections:
- Current MnDOT Programs and Practices.
- Survey of Practice.
- Related Resources.
Current MnDOT Programs and Practices
The following highlights MnDOT’s current program to establish partnerships to maintain ROW landscapes and other practices that promote the establishment of pollinator habitat. Survey respondents’ experiences described later in this summary of findings may inform enhancement of MnDOT’s existing practices or the development of a new pollinator-specific partnership program.
MnDOT has partnered with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to establish more than 20 native seed mixes for use on Minnesota roadsides. MnDOT’s online PlantSelector tool includes a seed mix tab to help designers and novices select the right seed for the right place.
Community Roadside Landscape Partnership Program
MnDOT does not have a partnership program that focuses solely on promoting pollinator habitat. The Community Roadside Landscape Partnership Program allows Minnesota communities to partner with MnDOT to establish and maintain landscaping in the ROW along highways that traverse their communities, and these landscaping treatments may benefit pollinators.
Launched in 1991, MnDOT’s award-winning CRLPP has completed more than 350 projects that have contributed more than $7 million in roadside landscaping improvements in the ROW along state, U.S. and Interstate highways. Currently, 235 local governmental units participate in the program, providing funds or in-kind services to install and maintain state-funded landscape materials. MnDOT does not allow the participation of individuals or groups who are not directly affiliated with the local government applicant.
Communities can design their own ROW landscape projects or seek design assistance from MnDOT. Community volunteers may participate in the planting and maintenance of trees, shrubs, vines, perennial groundcovers, wildflowers and grasses. After planting, community volunteers are responsible for establishing a maintenance schedule and for the watering, weeding and monitoring for disease, insect and drainage problems required for the landscape planting.
Each of MnDOT’s eight districts sets aside an annual allocation for CRLPP participation, which can range from $30,000 to $100,000 (annual program costs are not tracked). MnDOT estimates nearly $1.75 million in annual cost savings are associated with CRLPP volunteers’ maintenance of ROW landscape plantings.
Participating governmental agencies must pass a resolution authorizing the CRLPP partnership and execute a Cooperative Agreement with MnDOT that details the local government’s procurement, installation and maintenance responsibilities. MnDOT district maintenance personnel are responsible for engaging with a governmental agency if a problem with an installation or ongoing maintenance is identified. When problems cannot be resolved, MnDOT removes the plantings.
Partnerships with Other Agencies
During a May 2016 meeting of the AASHTO Board of Directors, senior executives from MnDOT, Federal Highway Administration and five other state DOTs—Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas—signed a memorandum of understanding that encourages the use of roadsides along Interstate 35 to develop and maintain pollinator habitat. The 1,500-mile I-35 corridor, which stretches from Minnesota to Texas, is a flyway for the monarch butterfly and provides spring and summer breeding habitat. While not creating an obligation for funding, the memorandum of understanding does provide for the establishment of “a cooperative and coordinated effort to establish best practices and promote public awareness of the monarch butterfly, honey bee and pollinator conservation.”
Survey of Practice
A print survey was distributed to 19 state DOTs expected to have experience with maintaining pollinator habitat on highway ROWs, or partnerships with volunteers to maintain roadside landscapes, to gather information about the development and management of such programs. Representatives from nine Minnesota counties also received the survey to assess pollinator-related activities within Minnesota.
Nine state DOTs responded to the survey; an additional respondent provided Web links with information about the agency’s pollinator partnership program in lieu of completing the survey. Only one Minnesota county—St. Louis—responded, indicating that the county has no pollinator projects or partnership programs. The table below identifies the type of partnership program supported by each respondent and the page number where a description of each program appears in this TRS.
About the Minnesota Department of Transportation
MnDOT, or the Minnesota Department of Transportation, was created in 1976 by the Legislature to assume the activities of the former Departments of Aeronautics and of Highways and the transportation- related sections of the State Planning Agency and of the Public Service Department. Today MnDOT develops and implements policies, plans and programs for aeronautics, highways, motor carriers, ports, public transit and railroads.