I-76 is Buzzing About new Pollinator Highway Designation

July 11, 2018 - Transportation Matters

NORTHERN COLORADO—In May, a unanimous Joint House Resolution named Interstate 76 from Denver to the Nebraska state line the Colorado Pollinator Highway. Now, the Colorado Department of Transportation is starting the work to get the highway to live up to all that buzz.

All of this started with a 2014 presidential memorandum encouraging departments of transportation to "identify opportunities to increase pollinator habitat along roadways and implement improvements, as appropriate."

I-76 was chosen because it is a federal highway that runs through environmentally sensitive areas like the eastern plains, where agriculture is one of the primary economic drivers. It is also a key area for migratory butterflies.

"Pollinators are vital to our ecology, our economy and our industry," said Carol Parr, regional environmental manager for CDOT. "It just takes a small shift in how we regularly do our work to help provide an environment where they can thrive."

One of those shifts involves mowing. Crews will still mow the grass 15 feet from the roadway, but during the main pollinator months (April to September), the other grassy areas will not be mowed.

Managing noxious weeds will also be more specialized along the corridor. In fact, CDOT will have a roadside manager for the corridor, who will also oversee the statewide vegetation management program. That program will promote genetically appropriate plants that support self-sustaining dynamic ecosystems, which are resistant to invasion by non-native or invasive species.

"While I-76 is our designated corridor, we fully expect to take lessons learned here to other areas of the state where we can assist with pollinators," Parr said.

CDOT is also partnering with several other groups, like the Butterfly Pavillion, Colorado Pollinator Network and People Pollinators Action Network, to assist with mapping of existing roadside habitat, and helping to restore and improve those habitats.

Our quality of life in Colorado will decline if our transportation system declines.

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