Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Those aren’t weeds - they’re pollinator habitat

By Barbara LaBoe

If you drove our highways this summer and early fall you likely got a first-hand glimpse at our pollinator-friendly mowing and planting policy – though it may be hard to recognize at first glance.
Signs like this at the Scatter Creek Safety Rest Area north of Centralia help explain our shift in mowing and planting to better support pollinators. In the next few years, this area will return to a more natural meadow instead of being mowed.

About two years ago, we reduced the amount of mowing and weed removal in our wider right of ways to allow a more natural, meadow-like look to return. It's called integrated vegetation management and includes planting more native plants and using plants with staggered blooming seasons. This approach helps pollinators – animals and insects that transfer pollen from plant to plant – by providing more sources of nectar, pollen, larval host plants and nesting locations. (We still mow directly alongside roadways and other areas to maintain safe sightlines).

Pollinators are crucial to plant reproduction and help support our state's $49 billion agricultural and food industry. In addition, reduced mowing helps save money (about $1 million annually) and reduces our carbon emissions (by 40 metric tons a year), which helps both human and pollinators alike breathe a little easier.
The milkweed seen growing in the median along I-82 near Prosser used to be mowed, but now we're leaving it in place to provide habitat for monarch butterflies. This new mowing policy helps support important pollinators across our state.

So, what does this new approach look like? Here are two examples:
  • Milkweed along Interstate 82 through the Yakima Valley and Interstate 90 through the Ellensburg Valley. In years past, we saw it as just a weed and removed it. But now we know it's excellent food for Monarch butterflies. In just two years of reduced mowing a vibrant pollinator habitat has sprung up along the roadside.
  • Fields in and around the Scatter Creek Safety Rest Area north of Centralia on Interstate 5. While it used to be mowed regularly, we're now letting native plants return. The emerging meadow helps provide pollinator habitat for honey bees and other native pollinators unique to the local ecosystem. Interpretive signs installed this summer help explain the ultimate goal and let travelers know to watch for signs of change during the next few years.
We know some areas may look neglected while they transition from manicured to meadow-like, but what you're really seeing is our efforts to do our share and help improve the environment. So the next time you see some "weeds" along a roadway, look again, you might just see some butterflies or bees as well.
Allowing pollinator-friendly plants in our right of ways help support pollinators like this bee, which in turn help support our state's $49 billion agricultural and food industry. The policy also saves money and reduces carbon emissions.


Unknown said...

Thank You.

Starre Vartan said...

Saves money, pollinators AND emissions! Win-win-win.

WSDOT comment policy

Post a Comment