Article from Mary Gaudet-Wilson, reprinted with permission
The Connecticut DOT has recently issued three important policies which address pollinator habitat along roadsides. Those policies include reduced mowing, plant replacement plots, and establishment of native plants at new construction sites.
Along highways in Connecticut, medians which are 60′ or wider will be cut only 15′ along the roadside and will be cut only once or twice during the season. Spot treatment of herbicides will be used for invasives only as needed. In general, mowing will be reduced to one major cut at the end of the season.
Plant replacement plots are being developed to create additional pollinator habitat areas. Each of the four DOT districts will have two plots, one naturalized and one planted. In District 4 there is one naturalized plot (over an acre at Exit 10, westbound shoulder, Newtown) and one planted plot (Torrington, Route 8, Exit 46 center median.)
At new transportation sites DOT will prioritize with native plants which are beneficial to native insects and other forms of wildlife.
Already there are visible signs that these changes are making an impact. Driving along I-84 one can see the emergence of wildflowers such as crown vetch, flea bane, birdfoot trefoil and daisies. Reduced mowing (which one would assume reduced cost benefits as well), has allowed nature to rebound to a more natural state which is certainly pleasing to the human eye as well as to the eye of the pollinator.
With 10,000 miles of state highways these linear corridors of improved habitat could make a significant difference for our bees, insects, birds and other wildlife. Roadside lands provide shelter, food and breeding opportunities for many species, representing one of the most widespread networks of linear habitats on earth. They are corridors for species distribution because they connect fragmented existing landscape patches. DOT’s efforts to improve and create more pollinator habitat is a positive example of what can be done to align our cultural practices with what we know makes environmental sense.
We need to celebrate these changes and encourage state agencies to continue this shift in thinking. We need also to shift local and personal paradigms to a more natural way of doing things. Let’s take a cue from the State and institute measures in our own yards and communities which recognize that we are part of an ecosystem that needs thoughtful care. Understanding the importance of pollinators and their difficulties may well be the tipping point to better stewardship of our land.
12 Whippoorwill Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470
Garden Club of Newtown