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11-1 Chapter 11 Communication Support 11.1 IntroductionÂ Outreach and communication are important parts of the process when taking action for pollinator conservation. Many of the actions necessary to protect pollinators may involve increased up-front costs, such as using locally or regionally sourced native plants in revegetation projects, or require cultural changes in planning or maintenance activities, such as reduced mowing frequency. Outreach and communication with the public and within your agency are important for building support for such actions. It is important for people to understand why pollinators are important, why pollinator conservation efforts are needed, and how Departments of Transportation (DOTs) can contribute meaningfully to pollinator conservation. This outreach can help improve buy-in from the public as well as the DOT staff members who will carry out this important work. Sharing the story with the community and its leaders about the work your agency is doing to manage roadsides while also supporting pollinators will elevate awareness and build support for your agency and for pollinator conservation. Outreach to the public can: ï§ build public support, ï§ share accomplishments and progress over time, ï§ educate decision-makers and partners about the impact and reach of your work, ï§ demonstrate responsible use of resources and funding to the public, ï§ share practices with other DOTs, and ï§ attract new organizations and partners for collaboration and outreach. Internal communication can: ï§ build internal support for actions that benefit pollinators, ï§ improve understanding of why particular actions are important for pollinator conservation, ï§ share accomplishments and progress over time, and ï§ attract new organizations and partners for collaboration and outreach. This chapter was created to serve as a communications tool kit. It provides materials to help you communicate your pollinator-related projects, actions, and commitments to department or agency staff members as well as the general public. For guidance and inspiration, examples of what DOTs have already created are also included.
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-2 11.1.1 What is in this Toolkit? This toolkit contains a variety of resources for communicating with the public and with DOT staff members. These tools include: ï§ examples of signs, posters, brochures, and websites from many DOTs that can serve as inspiration for your own communications efforts; ï§ sample social media posts and a calendar of relevant pollinator-related events that you can use in social media outreach with the public; ï§ Frequently Asked Questions about pollinators and roadside habitat, which may be especially helpful for public outreach efforts; ï§ Talking Points about pollinators and roadside habitat, which may be especially helpful for outreach within your DOT; and ï§ a list of Top DOT Actions for Pollinators that can be used to highlight important conservation actions to DOT staff members and decision-makers. In addition, there are links to a variety of resources to aid in your communications efforts. These include: ï§ photo libraries of pollinators, ï§ graphics, ï§ relevant video sites, ï§ an editable PowerPoint presentation for use in educating DOT staff members about pollinators and roadside habitat, ï§ a video for the public about the importance of pollinators and roadside habitat that can be used in public outreach, and ï§ a video for DOT staff members about the importance of pollinators and roadside habitat that can be used for internal training or communications. The other chapters in this guide also contain background information that can be useful when responding to media requests for more details or answering questions within your agency or from the general public. For example, detailed information on pollinators and how pollinators use roadsides can be found in Chapter 2. 11.2 CommunicatingÂ withÂ aÂ GeneralÂ AudienceÂ Communicating with the public is important for building public support for DOTs and their conservation efforts. There are a variety of ways to tell the public about the important work your agency is doing, including signs, publications, and social media outreach. This section provides examples of outreach activities from DOTs around the country, along with additional resources that you can use in your own outreach efforts. 11.2.1 Signage Signs can be used to indicate to DOT staff members the roadsides with special maintenance instructions or designated areas of concern (Figure 11-1). Signs can also be used to
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-3 showcase to the public an established planting along a roadside or at a highly visible area such as a rest area (Figure 11-2). Signs can also indicate habitat in progress, demonstrating a transportation agency's intentions for a new planting that is not yet fully established. Signs for the public can include project partners and background information regarding a project (Figure 11-3). Figure 11-1. Oregon DOT uses signs to indicate special management areas so the maintenance staff will know the specific vegetation management needed for that particular site.Â Figure 11-2. A simple but effective roadside sign in Kansas indicates a stretch of roadside with native wildflowers.Â
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-4 Figure 11-3. This educational sign is next to a display garden created by the Missouri DOT at the Missouri State Fairgrounds.Â 11.2.2 Websites Some DOTs have created web pages on their websites that specifically address pollinators and pollinator-related issues. These websites can be very useful in educating the public about why pollinators are important and what DOT initiatives are in place to support pollinators. Many of these websites have general information about pollinators and pollinator biology as well as specific information about DOT work that supports pollinators. Such websites are an ideal place to include maps of pollinator habitat work, videos, brochures, or factsheets and other information. Three great examples are: ï§ Florida DOT: https://www.flawildflowers.org/fdot-wildflower-program-pollinators/ ï§ Virginia DOT: https://www.virginiadot.org/programs/pollinator_habitat_program.asp ï§ Washington DOT: https://wsdot.wa.gov/construction-planning/protecting- environment/maintaining-vegetation-along-our-highways/protecting-pollinators 11.2.3 License Plates Several states have specialty license plates that highlight pollinators or native wildflowers (Figure 11-4). The sales of these license plates often go toward supporting additional wildflower plantings or related research and education efforts. Depending on the state, transportation agencies may not be directly involved in license plate designs but can work with outside groups that will promote certain designs.
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-5 Figure 11-4. Many states offer specialty license plates that highlight pollinators or native wildflowers. 11.2.4 Printed Publications Many DOTs have created publications to celebrate the local diversity of pollinators and native plants. These publications might provide information on the natural history of pollinators or showcase species of interest (Figure 11-5). Other publications might focus on highlighting and recognizing key native plants that can be found on roadsides in the region (Figure 11-6). Examples include posters, booklets, and factsheets (Figure 11-7). Many of these publications were created in collaboration with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and others.
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-6 Note:Â GuidesÂ areÂ availableÂ onÂ theÂ followingÂ websites:Â Â â https://iowadot.gov/lrtfÂ â https://viz.wspis.com/flipbooks/tdot_pollinator_guide/Â Figure 11-5. These guides, created by the Iowa and Tennessee DOTs, highlight pollinators as well as the work that the DOTs are doing to support them. Note:Â BrochuresÂ areÂ availableÂ onÂ theÂ followingÂ websites:Â Â â https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP138 â https://dot.nebraska.gov/media/3933/wildflower2009.pdf â https://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdotâinfo/trv/wildflowers/wildflowers_brochure.pdf Figure 11-6. Brochures created by the Florida, Nebraska, and Texas DOTs bring attention to native plants found on their respective roadsides and are often available at rest areas and other tourist stopovers.
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-7 Note:Â PostersÂ areÂ aÂ greatÂ toolÂ forÂ sharingÂ informationÂ withÂ wideÂ audiences,Â particularlyÂ withÂ schoolsÂ andÂ landÂ managementÂ agencies.Â PostersÂ areÂ availableÂ onÂ theÂ followingÂ website:Â https://iowadot.gov/lrtfÂ Figure 11-7. These posters were created for the Iowa DOT as part of the Iowa Living Roadway Trust Fund and are available free on request to anyone in the state. 11.2.5 Events Local or statewide events can be opportunities for outreach to the public on the pollinator-related work of your agency. Creating a booth or display that can be used at events such as a county or state fair that includes pictures of roadside habitat and pollinators will educate the public about these important animals and how your DOT is working to support them. Illinois DOT once set up a state fair display with monarch butterflies in a net cage to grab attention of fair attendees and start conversations about the connections between roadsides and monarchs. Public meetings can be another opportunity to engage with the public directly. When Ohio DOTâs Region 6 was considering installing several pollinator plantings in collaboration with partners, they set up a series of public meetings to discuss the plantings. These meetings were instrumental in helping the public understand why Ohio DOT was experimenting with native plants and what to expect as the plantings established (i.e., the plantings would not look colorful during the establishment phase but would begin to bloom a few years after planting). 11.2.6 Demonstration Sites Demonstration plantings with native plants that are showy and colorful are ideal for smaller spaces such as rest areas or gardens that receive lots of foot traffic from people within the state as well as tourists from elsewhere. Signage or brochures can educate the public as to why a DOT is showcasing these plants. In 2012, Missouri DOT installed a pollinator garden on the Missouri State Fairgrounds. The 60- by 25-foot garden included 17 species of wildflowers that attract pollinators. The garden also had two 4-foot-wide signs that offered information (and photos) regarding some of the known species of bees in Missouri and explanations as to why pollinators are important. OklahomaÂ DOTÂ providedÂ informationÂ aboutÂ roadsideÂ pollinatorÂ habitatÂ toÂ theÂ publicÂ atÂ oneÂ ofÂ theirÂ TouristÂ InformationÂ CentersÂ PhotoÂ Credit:Â R. PerkinsÂ
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-8 11.2.7 Social Media Social media is an effective way to communicate with the public quickly about the work your DOT is doing to support pollinators. Social media can help draw attention to articles, meetings, new publications, interviews, podcasts, or demonstration sites or just generate interest in a DOT. There are a growing number of social media platforms, but Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter remain the three with the largest reach and the ones that are most commonly used by agencies. These platforms have very different limits on how long posts can be (see Table 11-1) as well as some other differences regarding what can be posted. For Facebook and Twitter, photos or videos are optional in posts; live links can be included (they will display as a highlighted panel). Instagram does not allow live links and does require a photo or video. If you are using multiple platforms, it is worth using the same post on as many platforms as you can for efficiency, despite the different character limits. Facebook and Instagram both allow longer, more descriptive posts compared with Twitter; therefore, it is typical to use the same text for Facebook and Instagram and shorter text for Twitter. Table 11-1. Quick guide to different social media platforms. PlatformÂ IdealÂ for:Â LengthÂ ofÂ PostÂ (characterÂ limit)Â HashtagÂ LimitÂ FacebookÂ PromotingÂ events,Â summarizingÂ recentÂ work,Â liveÂ videoÂ streamsÂ 63,206Â 2Â InstagramÂ PhotosÂ 2,200Â 30Â TwitterÂ SharingÂ links,Â news,Â marketingÂ 280Â Â 2Â The following calendar (Table 11-2) lists some events that your communications department may wish to take advantage of when using social media to share the importance of pollinators and the role DOTs play in supporting them. Table 11-2. Calendar of events relevant for pollinator outreach through social media. MonthÂ OpportunitiesÂ forÂ HighlightingÂ PollinatorsÂ andÂ TheirÂ HabitatÂ JanuaryÂ OverwinteringÂ monarchÂ butterflyÂ countsÂ inÂ theÂ westÂ (ThanksgivingÂ Count,Â NewÂ YearâsÂ CountÂ dataÂ released)Â FebruaryÂ MonarchsÂ startÂ toÂ leaveÂ overwinteringÂ sitesÂ MarchÂ BumbleÂ beeÂ queensÂ areÂ emergingÂ AprilÂ EarthÂ Day/WeekÂ andÂ NationalÂ NativeÂ PlantÂ Month;Â bumbleÂ beeÂ queensÂ emergingÂ
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-9 MonthÂ OpportunitiesÂ forÂ HighlightingÂ PollinatorsÂ andÂ TheirÂ HabitatÂ MayÂ SpringÂ wildflowersÂ andÂ theirÂ importanceÂ forÂ bees;Â NationalÂ WildflowerÂ Week,Â EndangeredÂ SpeciesÂ DayÂ (MayÂ 19),Â WorldÂ BeeÂ DayÂ (MayÂ 20)Â JuneÂ PollinatorÂ WeekÂ (thirdÂ weekÂ inÂ June)Â JulyÂ MothÂ WeekÂ (thirdÂ weekÂ inÂ July)Â AugustÂ WildflowersÂ inÂ bloomÂ onÂ roadsidesÂ SeptemberÂ FallÂ monarchÂ migrationÂ OctoberÂ FallÂ monarchÂ migrationÂ NovemberÂ OverwinteringÂ habitatÂ forÂ pollinatorsÂ DecemberÂ OverwinteringÂ habitatÂ forÂ pollinatorsÂ Sample Social Media Posts Social media posts that focus on pollinator-related outreach can cover a variety of topics, such as the importance of pollinators; provide photos or information about particular species of pollinators found on roadsides; or discuss the value of native plants and roadside habitat projects. ï§ âOn average, one in three bites of food is dependent on pollinators.â ï§ âPlanting native plants along roadsides has many benefits, including providing pollinator habitat, flood prevention, and carbon sequestration.â ï§ âMonarch butterflies use milkweeds along roadsides during the breeding season.â ï§ âSpring is here! Keep an eye out for the first bumble bees of the season.â ï§ âMonarch butterflies in the west are in trouble â our DOT is taking action by avoiding mowing during the breeding season.â ï§ âMigrating monarch butterflies east of the Rocky Mountains may travel as far as 3,000 miles during their lifetime, one of the longest butterfly migrations in the world!â ï§ âRoadsides can be home for a number of rare plants and animals, including butterflies like the Karner blue butterfly.â 11.2.8 Frequently Asked Questions There are a number of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that the general public may ask of a DOT regarding pollinator conservation and roadsides. The FAQs and suggested answers that follow have been compiled into a Word document that is available for download so that the text can be used as needed in your outreach efforts (available on the National Academies Press website https://nap.nationalacademies.org/.
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-10 Why Are Pollinators Important? Pollinators are important to human health and well-being. More than 85 percent of flowering plants require an animal, usually an insect, for pollination. One out of every three bites of food is pollinated by an insect, including bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, and beetles. Unfortunately, populations of many insect pollinators are declining. This includes species that were formerly widespread, such as the monarch butterfly. Insect pollinator populations are declining due to a range of factors, including habitat loss, pesticide exposure, and climate change. How Can My DOT Help Pollinators? DOTs can help pollinators by creating pollinator habitat along roadsides that includes a diversity of native plants. DOTs can also help pollinators by protecting plant species that are important to pollinators where they occur along roadsides. These include preferred nectar and/or pollen plants as well as butterfly and moth host plants (i.e., the plants that caterpillars eat) of local pollinators. Do Roadsides Make Good Habitat for Pollinators? Yes! Roadsides can provide good habitat for pollinators when the habitat contains a variety of native plants that provide food, nesting sites, and places to overwinter. Food for pollinators can mean host plants for butterfly or moth caterpillars as well as flowers, which provide nectar and pollen. Why Is It Important to Create Pollinator Habitat Along Roadsides? One of the primary drivers of biodiversity decline for many species, including pollinators, is habitat loss. With more than 10 million acres in the United States, roadsides present a valuable opportunity to increase the amount of habitat available to pollinators. Increasing the amount of habitat available will increase the number of pollinators that can be supported on the landscape, thereby decreasing the risk of extinction. Roadside habitat is also ideally suited to increasing habitat connectivity, making it easier for animals to move among high-quality habitat patches such as nature preserves or other natural areas. Increased habitat connectivity also helps to reduce extinction risks. Will Pollinator Habitat Affect Driver Safety? No. Driver safety is a top priority for DOTs. Pollinator habitat can be maintained or planted along roadsides beyond the mown strip in the recovery area so that safety is not compromised. Wonât Pollinators Be Killed by Traffic? Although some pollinators are killed by traffic, research suggests that creating pollinator habitat along roadsides does not increase the number of pollinators killed. In fact, some research shows that pollinator mortality from traffic is actually lower in places where roadside vegetation has more plant species. Quality habitat on roadsides may reduce the number of pollinators killed by vehicles by providing necessary habitat, thereby reducing the need for pollinators to move elsewhere. In many parts of the country, roadsides are the
11-11 ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ primary sources of habitat; therefore, ensuring that roadsides have native plants that provide the resources pollinators need is highly beneficial. Roadsides can also be very important for increasing habitat connectivity. Are There Other Advantages to Creating Roadside Habitat for Pollinators? Creating climate-smart pollinator habitat along roadsides has many additional benefits beyond conservation. Pollinator habitat helps control erosion and reduces runoff, which reduces flooding and improves water quality. Planting a diverse assemblage of native plants can also increase soil health and improve carbon sequestration. In addition, habitat for pollinators can provide habitat for other beneficial insects, such as insect predators that contribute to the control of crop pests. How Can I Help? You can help by contacting your representatives at all levels of government and letting them know that you support DOT efforts to increase pollinator habitat along roadsides. In your own communities, you can help pollinators by planting native plants and reducing your use of pesticides, especially insecticides, around your home. 11.3 CommunicationÂ WithinÂ YourÂ DOTÂ Internal communication efforts can be valuable for building awareness about the importance of pollinators and the strategies that can be used to create and maintain roadside habitat for them. Awareness of the potential of roadsides as habitat for pollinators should be increased within the administration as well as at other levels (Lampinen and Anttila 2021). It can also be helpful to highlight safety, possible cost savings, public engagement, and other benefits of pollinator habitat, such as erosion control and carbon sequestration, as these may increase adoption by decision-makers (Nemec et al. 2021). Internal outreach efforts can also be useful for building enthusiasm and support for such actions among DOT staff members. This is valuable when seeking to make and implement changes successfully. Additional resources are provided here that may be useful in outreach within your DOT: the FAQs, Talking Points and Top DOT Actions for Pollinators are available for download as Word documents so that the text can be used as needed for internal communications (available on the National Academies Press website, https://nap.nationalacademies.org/). 11.3.1 Staff Training DOTs have identified staff training as a very important component to integrating changes made to maintenance and design plans regarding pollinators. Training helps build internal support and an understanding of new approaches within the agency, from the managerial staff to the crews working on the ground. Topics for training might include: ï§ basic biological and habitat needs for pollinators, ï§ roles that roadsides and rights-of-way can play in pollinator conservation, ï§ current best practices to minimize impacts of vegetation management on pollinators, ï§ landscape designs with pollinators in mind,
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-12 ï§ recognition of important native plants, ï§ updated noxious and invasive weed management techniques, and ï§ monitoring techniques for roadside vegetation and/or pollinators. Figure 11-8. Agenda for pollinator training for Colorado DOT staff. If your agency does not have in-house expertise to conduct the training, partner with a local organization or agency that can help share their knowledge. In Iowa, for example, the Tallgrass Prairie Center at the University of Northern Iowa provides native plant identification training to roadside managers as well as staff members from agencies within the state, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service. See Box 11-1 for an example agenda of training for DOT staff members geared toward providing background and information on practices that support pollinators.
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-13 Box 11-1. Roadside Landscape Design and Pollinator Conservation Course Welcome, Introductions, Overview of the Day Module 1. The Importance of Pollinator conservation ï§ Pollination biology ï§ Pollination economics ï§ Pollinators in decline Module 2. Bee and Butterfly Biology ï§ Pollinator recognition ï§ Pollinator ecology ï§ Identifying pollinator habitat Module 3. Pollinator-Friendly Roadside Management ï§ The value of habitat ï§ Importance of roadsides to pollinators ï§ Conducting roadside vegetation inventories ï§ Adapting mowing practices ï§ Use of herbicides to reduce risks to pollinators ï§ Discussion about the potential for adjusting practices regionally Module 4. Roadside Design and Planning Considerations ï§ Plant selection ï§ Sourcing plant material ï§ Prioritizing new locations ï§ Brainstorming â opportunities and constraints ï§ Coordinating with maintenance Module 5. Enhancing Establishment of Roadside Vegetation ï§ Site preparation ï§ Planting techniques for woody and herbaceous plants Module 6. Communicating with the Public about Pollinators ï§ Signage, messaging, social media ï§ Future research needs Module 7. Additional Resources and wrap up
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-14 11.3.2 Partnerships State or federal agencies, as well as local, regional, or national organizations, can be excellent partners for outreach to the general public as well as internal communications (see Box 11-2). A land management agency or organization, for example, could offer new cutting-edge weed management techniques to the maintenance staff or organize a regional workshop to help share collective knowledge. Similarly, native plant conservation or natural heritage organizations could provide feedback to the design staff on native plants that are unfamiliar to them. Other agencies or organizations could also be partners in communications with the public when there are common goals. The Audubon Society and Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever are good partners for sharing the advantages of reduced mowing strategies involving songbirds and game birds. Possible collaborations could include events like field days or garden visits, sharing costs on plant materials or signage for habitat installations, or just spreading the word about DOT practices that support pollinators and biodiversity. Box 11-2. Communicating Timing of Mowing Within an Agency The Ohio Department of Transportation came up with a creative solution to help maintenance staff know when to mow in different parts of the state. They created window clings to be placed in the cabs of mowers that give basic guidelines on mowing height and timing, as well as a QR code that staff can scan to get more information. This type of creative communications solutions can help keep staff informed about best practices for maintaining pollinator habitat. Partnerships with other agencies or organizations can help fill knowledge gaps within your agency. A transportation department that has little experience with establishing native plants could partner with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, a habitat organization such as Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, or another group that installs native vegetation and provides guidance on habitat management. Organizations with a specialized focus on pollinators could provide background information for a DOT or provide tailored guidance or staff training. Table 11-3 has examples of organizations or groups that could be partners in pollinator conservation efforts.
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-15 Table 11-3. Potential partners in communicating with the public regarding revegetation projects or training and educational collaborations on vegetation management techniques. PotentialÂ PartnerÂ Organization/AgencyÂ DescriptionÂ StateÂ andÂ FederalÂ AgenciesÂ StateÂ departmentsÂ ofÂ naturalÂ resourcesÂ ProtectÂ air,Â water,Â andÂ soil;Â theirÂ rolesÂ sometimesÂ alsoÂ encompassÂ fishingÂ andÂ huntingÂ asÂ wellÂ asÂ environmentalÂ conservationÂ andÂ naturalÂ heritageÂ StateÂ fishÂ andÂ gameÂ departmentsÂ InvolvedÂ inÂ stewardshipÂ ofÂ parks,Â fish,Â game,Â andÂ stateÂ outdoorÂ recreationalÂ resources;Â someÂ alsoÂ trackÂ speciesÂ ofÂ concernÂ U.S.Â FishÂ andÂ WildlifeÂ ServiceÂ FederalÂ agencyÂ thatÂ protectsÂ endangeredÂ speciesÂ andÂ managesÂ fisheries,Â refuges,Â andÂ migratoryÂ birdsÂ USDAÂ NaturalÂ ResourcesÂ ConservationÂ ServiceÂ FederalÂ agencyÂ thatÂ providesÂ technicalÂ supportÂ toÂ producersÂ andÂ landownersÂ asÂ wellÂ asÂ financialÂ supportÂ forÂ voluntaryÂ conservationÂ actionsÂ onÂ workingÂ landsÂ USDAÂ ForestÂ ServiceÂ FederalÂ agencyÂ thatÂ managesÂ nationalÂ forestsÂ andÂ grasslandsÂ BureauÂ ofÂ LandÂ ManagementÂ FederalÂ agencyÂ thatÂ managesÂ publicÂ landsÂ forÂ recreation,Â grazing,Â orÂ energyÂ extraction;Â alsoÂ managesÂ nationalÂ monumentsÂ andÂ wildernessÂ areasÂ NationalÂ ParkÂ ServiceÂ Â FederalÂ agencyÂ thatÂ managesÂ nationalÂ parks,Â someÂ nationalÂ monuments,Â andÂ otherÂ landÂ thatÂ hasÂ historicÂ orÂ conservationÂ valueÂ StateÂ departmentsÂ ofÂ agricultureÂ StateÂ departmentsÂ ofÂ agricultureÂ mayÂ beÂ theÂ primaryÂ agenciesÂ forÂ managingÂ insectsÂ inÂ someÂ statesÂ MilitaryÂ basesÂ MilitaryÂ basesÂ oftenÂ haveÂ conservationÂ andÂ managementÂ mandatesÂ thatÂ overlapÂ withÂ thoseÂ ofÂ DOTsÂ WorkingÂ GroupsÂ RightsâofâWayÂ asÂ HabitatÂ WorkingÂ GroupÂ AÂ collaborativeÂ groupÂ ofÂ partnersÂ fromÂ theÂ energyÂ andÂ transportationÂ sectors:Â http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/Â WesternÂ AssociationÂ ofÂ FishÂ andÂ WildlifeÂ AgenciesÂ RegionalÂ workingÂ groupÂ inÂ theÂ westernÂ statesÂ thatÂ hasÂ takenÂ aÂ leadershipÂ roleÂ inÂ monarchÂ conservationÂ
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-16 PotentialÂ PartnerÂ Organization/AgencyÂ DescriptionÂ MidwestÂ AssociationÂ ofÂ FishÂ andÂ WildlifeÂ AgenciesÂ RegionalÂ workingÂ groupÂ inÂ theÂ MidwestÂ thatÂ hasÂ takenÂ aÂ leadershipÂ roleÂ inÂ monarchÂ conservationÂ NonâGovernmentÂ OrganizationsÂ withÂ ExpertiseÂ PertainingÂ toÂ OutreachÂ aboutÂ NaturalÂ HeritageÂ StateÂ masterÂ naturalistsÂ GroupsÂ thatÂ provideÂ naturalistÂ trainingÂ forÂ volunteersÂ whoÂ areÂ eagerÂ toÂ makeÂ aÂ differenceÂ StateÂ naturalÂ heritageÂ foundationsÂ orÂ commissionsÂ OrganizationsÂ devotedÂ toÂ protectingÂ landÂ andÂ wildlifeÂ StateÂ biologicalÂ surveysÂ SomeÂ statesÂ haveÂ divisionsÂ thatÂ areÂ devotedÂ toÂ monitoringÂ biologicalÂ diversity;Â theseÂ canÂ provideÂ detailedÂ informationÂ aboutÂ theÂ locationsÂ ofÂ habitatÂ orÂ particularlyÂ importantÂ diverseÂ landsÂ NonâGovernmentÂ OrganizationsÂ withÂ ExpertiseÂ PertainingÂ toÂ NativeÂ PlantsÂ NativeÂ plantÂ societiesÂ StateÂ orÂ localÂ groupsÂ thatÂ focusÂ onÂ nativeÂ plants,Â restoration,Â andÂ ecosystemÂ health:Â https://nanps.org/nativeâplantâsocieties/ WildÂ OnesÂ NationalÂ nonprofitÂ organizationÂ withÂ localÂ chaptersÂ thatÂ focusÂ onÂ nativeÂ plantsÂ andÂ landscaping:Â Â https://wildones.org/Â NaturalÂ AreasÂ AssociationÂ NationalÂ nonprofitÂ organizationÂ thatÂ providesÂ supportÂ toÂ aÂ communityÂ ofÂ naturalÂ areaÂ managers:Â https://naturalareas.org/Â NonâGovernmentÂ OrganizationsÂ withÂ ExpertiseÂ PertainingÂ toÂ NativeÂ PlantÂ EstablishmentÂ TheÂ NatureÂ ConservancyÂ NonprofitÂ thatÂ focusesÂ onÂ protectingÂ andÂ restoringÂ landÂ andÂ water,Â oftenÂ throughÂ partnerships:Â https://www.nature.org/enâus/Â Â PheasantsÂ Forever/QuailÂ ForeverÂ NonprofitÂ organizationsÂ thatÂ focusÂ onÂ creatingÂ andÂ maintainingÂ habitatÂ forÂ gameÂ birds:Â https://www.pheasantsforever.org/Â https://quailforever.org/Â Â XercesÂ SocietyÂ forÂ InvertebrateÂ ConservationÂ NonprofitÂ thatÂ worksÂ toÂ supportÂ invertebratesÂ andÂ theÂ importantÂ rolesÂ theyÂ play;Â hasÂ significantÂ expertiseÂ inÂ habitatÂ establishmentÂ andÂ restorationÂ toÂ supportÂ pollinators:Â https://xerces.org/Â
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-17 PotentialÂ PartnerÂ Organization/AgencyÂ DescriptionÂ GrasslandÂ RestorationÂ NetworkÂ AnÂ associationÂ ofÂ projectsÂ withÂ staffÂ membersÂ whoÂ workÂ onÂ restorationÂ inÂ aÂ varietyÂ ofÂ grasslandÂ ecosystems.Â TheyÂ shareÂ knowledgeÂ andÂ informationÂ aboutÂ grasslandÂ restoration. NonâGovernmentÂ OrganizationsÂ withÂ ExpertiseÂ onÂ PollinatorsÂ XercesÂ SocietyÂ forÂ InvertebrateÂ ConservationÂ NonprofitÂ thatÂ worksÂ toÂ supportÂ invertebratesÂ andÂ theÂ importantÂ rolesÂ theyÂ play;Â hasÂ theÂ largestÂ pollinatorÂ conservationÂ teamÂ inÂ theÂ worldÂ andÂ manyÂ relevantÂ resources:Â https://xerces.org/Â PollinatorÂ PartnershipÂ NonprofitÂ knownÂ forÂ spearheadingÂ PollinatorÂ Week:Â https://www.pollinator.org/Â MonarchÂ JointÂ VentureÂ AÂ partnershipÂ ofÂ federalÂ andÂ stateÂ agencies,Â nongovernmentalÂ organizations,Â businesses,Â andÂ academicÂ programsÂ thatÂ workÂ toÂ protectÂ monarchs:Â https://monarchjointventure.org/Â NonâGovernmentÂ OrganizationsÂ withÂ ExpertiseÂ PertainingÂ toÂ SmallÂ WildlifeÂ SpeciesÂ thatÂ UseÂ RoadsideÂ HabitatÂ NationalÂ andÂ stateÂ AudubonÂ SocietyÂ chaptersÂ NonprofitÂ organizationÂ thatÂ worksÂ toÂ protectÂ birds:Â https://www.audubon.org/Â LocalÂ WildlifeÂ SocietyÂ chaptersÂ NonprofitÂ organizationÂ thatÂ providesÂ supportÂ forÂ wildlifeÂ professionals;Â localÂ chaptersÂ haveÂ aÂ regionalÂ focus:Â https://wildlife.org/Â In addition to national or statewide agencies or organizations, local groups that have a wide reach may be potential collaborators. Examples include the People and Pollinators Action Network, based in Boulder, Colorado; the Pollinator Conservation Alliance, based in Buffalo, New York; and the Pollinator Friendly Alliance, based in Stillwater, Minnesota. Fostering Pride for Your Work within Your Agency Creating a sense of pride in the work your agency is doing to protect pollinators is a great way to build support for continuing such work. At the 2022 Pollinator Habitat Conservation along Roadways Peer Exchange Meeting, many DOT staff members indicated that having leadership on board was crucial to implementing conservation practices for pollinators. Fostering a sense of agency pride in pollinator work is one way to get leadership support for pollinator conservation. Scott Lucas, assistant administrator with the Ohio DOT Office of Maintenance Operations, noted the importance of identifying the priorities of senior leadership in order to help engage them.
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-18 Some steps that Scott Lucas suggests for success include: ï§ Know what senior leadership is interested in and find out what motivates them. Some possibilities include eco-credits, financial gain, recognition, and aesthetics. ï§ What motivates the staff? Find something that many staff members care about and connect it to pollinators. It might be a shared love of nature, recreational activities like hunting or fishing, or interest in our food supply. Find out what motivates people in your department and show how creating pollinator habitat connects to this shared interest. ï§ Have a clear goal for your group. ï§ Do not exclude people (e.g., do not make it political). ï§ Give a shout-out to partners and recognize them whenever possible. ï§ Apply for awards related to exemplary ecosystem management or roadside stewardship. ï§ Do outreach events with staff members and the public to showcase the work you have done. 11.3.3 Talking Points This collection of talking points, also available for download as a Word document, may be useful in communications with the public or with DOT staffÂ members. These talking points can help explain to decision-makers in your department the importance of pollinators and the types of actions DOTs can take to protect pollinators. Pollinators Are Important to Human Health and Well-being More than 85 percent of flowering plants require an animal, usually an insect, to move pollen between flowers for reproduction. Because they provide this important service, pollinators are vital to our natural areas as well as human health and well-being. Insect pollinators are important for many crops. It has been estimated that about one in three bites of food that humans eat every day can be traced back to pollinators. As habitat within rural landscapes decreased, agricultural crops became more dependent on pollination from managed honey bees. The bees, which are native to Europe, can be brought in during bloom and moved between crops throughout the growing season. Studies show that wild native bees contribute substantially to crop pollination as well. Furthermore, pollination improves when native bees are present compared to periods when only honey bees are present (Greenleaf and Kremen 2006; Garibaldi et al. 2011; Brittain et al. 2013). Many Species of Pollinators Are Declining and in Need of Conservation Actions Many species of insects are declining around the world, including a number of pollinators. Pollinators in the United States are no exception. For example, long-term studies in both Ohio and California have documented declines in butterfly abundance and richness (Forister et al. 2011; Wepprich et al. 2019). A recent study of butterflies in the western
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-19 United States looked at long-term data as well as community science data and found a long-term decline in butterfly abundance amounting to 1.6 percent per year over the last 40 years (Forister et al. 2021). This decline includes previously abundant and widespread species like monarch butterfly. Native bees are also showing declines, with 27 percent of mason bees and 50 percent of leafcutter bees at risk of extinction. Similarly, 28 percent of bumble bee species in the United States and Canada are imperiled, with several on the brink of extinction. Roadsides Can Provide Valuable Habitat for Pollinators State DOTs manage substantial amounts of land and associated natural resources across North America, including more than 10 million acres in the United States (Forman et al. 2003). This acreage holds the potential to create a network of habitats that will be able to support pollinators across urban and rural landscapes. Pollinator diversity can be high in roadsides, areas where communities include a significant portion of the species found in the region (Ries et al. 2001; Hopwood 2008; Noordijk et al. 2009). Furthermore, roadsides can be home to rare species as well as common species (Munguira and Thomas 1992; Ries et al. 2001). Roadsides provide pollinators with food as well as breeding or nesting opportunities and can increase habitat connectivity. Creating and Managing Roadside Habitat for Pollinators Will Not Compromise Safety Sight lines can be maintained on roadsides with native plants through careful plant selection. Landscape designers can use the palatability of plants to large mammals to inform plant selections. In addition, reduced mowing (of the entire roadside) does not appear to influence the number of deer/vehicle collisions (Mastro et al. 2008; Barnum and Alt 2013; Guyton et al. 2014). Deer may prefer roadsides that are mowed more frequently because mowing can increase the palatability of some plants; deer often prefer new growth to older vegetation. Regular mowing of the strip of vegetation adjacent to the pavement (i.e., recovery area, also known as the clear zone), while letting the rest of the roadside grow to a reasonable height, can help maintain driver visibility and prevent deer/vehicle collisions. Creating and Managing Pollinator Habitat Along Roadsides Has Many Benefits for DOTs Creating climate-smart pollinator habitat along roadsides has many benefits beyond pollinator conservation. Pollinator habitat provides benefits such as erosion control and reductions in runoff. This reduces flooding, which is critical in areas where increased flooding is projected. Pollinator habitat can also help mitigate the climate crisis. Creating diverse plantings along roadsides increases soil health, which, in turn, increases carbon sequestration. Studies of grassland soils show that increasing plant diversity increases the amount of carbon stored by the soils (Lange et al. 2015; Chen et al. 2018; Yang et al. 2019). Thus, diverse plantings created for pollinator conservation also help mitigate climate change by increasing carbon sequestration within those habitats. Natural climate solutions encourage the restoration and protection of natural habitats as a means of combating the climate crisis. Harrison (2014) measured the value of carbon
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-20 sequestration within roadside habitat in Florida at $39 million per year; that number could increase with the sale of carbon credits. Other more recent studies suggest that natural climate solutions alone could provide one-third of the climate mitigation required to keep warming below 2Â°C (3.6Â°F) (Griscom et al. 2017; Fargione et al. 2018). DOTs are in a position to make real contributions to natural climate solutions through the creation of roadside pollinator habitat. Some Actions that Promote Pollinator Habitat May Save Money Compared to Current Practices Some practices, such as reduced mowing, can provide cost savings. Other practices that may have higher up-front costs, such as using native plants in revegetation projects, may have lower long-term costs through the savings provided by increased weed suppression and increased resilience to climate change. Native Plants Are Better for Pollinators Native plants are central to healthy, functional ecosystems. They support soil health, improve water quality, sequester carbon, and are habitat for wildlife. Native plants support more pollinators and more wildlife than do nonnative plants (Narango et al. 2017; Williams et al. 2011). In addition to supporting more caterpillars, native plants are more attractive as sources of pollen and nectar for pollinators than nonnative plants and support more species and more individuals (Williams et al. 2011; Morandin and Kremen 2013). Native grasses and flowers are best adapted to local growing conditions, require minimal inputs for establishment, and are able to tolerate drought or heat, which will become more common in many regions. In addition, some native species are able to tolerate the poor growing conditions found on roadsides (Harper-Lore and Wilson 2000; OâDell et al. 2007). Although the initial costs associated with establishing native plant material are relatively high, particularly in plans that include a higher density and diversity of flowering plants or specialized species, native plants are often more cost effective in the long term. Once established, the plantings persist over time and require less mowing as well as fewer herbicides and other weed control measures, thereby reducing long-term maintenance efforts and cost (Berger 2005). In contrast, controlling the growth and spread of invasive plants along roadsides through repeated mowing and rigorous herbicide use is very expensive (Westbrooks 1998). Noxious and Invasive Plants in Roadsides Negatively Affect Pollinators Noxious and invasive plants on roadsides can greatly reduce the diversity and abundance of host plants and flowering plants by outcompeting them for water, light, space, and nutrients, thereby limiting the reproductive potential of pollinators. Flowering weeds do confer some benefits to pollinators (e.g., Canada thistle provides nectar and pollen), but these benefits do not outweigh the ecological costs of keeping those plants in the landscape. Vegetation Management Is Important for Pollinators Disturbance to vegetation (e.g., mowing, haying), as well as the use of herbicides, can result in direct or indirect harm to pollinators. However, in many ecosystems, periodic
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-21 disturbance is important for maintaining plant diversity. For example, periodic disturbances in grasslands can prevent encroachment by woody plants. The frequency of such activities, as well as the scale at which they are implemented, influences their impacts on pollinators. Overall, negative pollinator response to vegetation management is usually temporary (aside from a poorly timed event that affects a population of an imperiled species that has no other populations nearby). Herbicides Can Be Used in Ways that Reduce Harm to Pollinators Widespread use of herbicides can have negative effects on pollinators by reducing important food plants. Roadside managers and other vegetation managers can reduce the impacts of herbicide use on pollinators by: ï§ using herbicides within an integrated approach that incorporates a range of methods to prevent or manage weeds and non-compatible vegetation, ï§ targeting nonselective broadcast applications that can damage host or nectar plants, ï§ using herbicides as efficiently and effectively as possible, ï§ reducing off-site movement of herbicides, and ï§ limiting direct exposure of pollinators to herbicides when possible. Collisions with Vehicles Are Not a Major Source of Mortality for Most Pollinators Hundreds of thousands of pollinators are killed by vehicles on roads (McKenna et al. 2001; Munoz et al. 2015), but research suggests that the numbers appear to be a small proportion of the overall populations using roadsides. Mortality rates of butterflies on roads, for example, range from 0.6 to a maximum of 10 percent of the population within the roadside, depending on the species, rates that are lower than numbers killed by natural enemies like predators or parasitoids (Munguira and Thomas 1992; Zielin et al. 2010). However, road mortality can be higher for some species of pollinators than others (Ries et al. 2001). For example, butterflies appear to be one of the more common groups of insects killed by cars (Rao and Girish 2007). Some butterflies that are strong fliers have the ability to dodge vehicles, while other species that are less able fliers are more susceptible (Munguira and Thomas 1992; Zielin et al. 2010). Migratory species like monarch butterflies may have higher rates of mortality due to vehicle collisions; during the fall migration, the eastern population of monarchs encounter hotspots of mortality while crossing a few highways (Kantola et al. 2019). The available science indicates that the benefits of supporting pollinators on roadsides outweighs any costs (Philips et al. 2020). Roadsides with High-quality Habitat Do Not Increase the Number of Pollinators Killed by Vehicles Although pollinators and other wildlife are going to be killed by vehicles as long as roads exist, there are ways to reduce pollinator road mortality. Reducing roadside mowing can reduce butterfly mortality (Skorka et al. 2013), as can enhancing the diversity and abundance of wildflowers on roadsides (Munguira and Thomas 1992; Ries et al. 2001; Skorka et al. 2013). Current research suggests that roadsides with high-quality habitat
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-22 actually reduce pollinator mortality rather than lure pollinators to their death by vehicle. This is because the pollinators stay on the roadsides rather than going off in search of flowers for nectar or pollen. Pollinator Conservation Has Public Relations Benefits Pollinator conservation is very popular with the public. Many people intuitively understand the importance of pollinators and are motivated to help protect these important animals. In addition to concern for pollinators generally, many people feel deep connections to individual pollinator species, such as the monarch butterfly. Talking about DOT work to protect pollinators and native plants can increase public support for DOTs and inspire the public to engage in pollinator conservation as well. Additional roadside and pollinator FAQ documents can be found at: ï§ https://monarchjointventure.org/mjvprograms/science/roadsidehabitat/frequently- asked-questions-monarchs-and-roadsides ï§ https://xerces.org/publications/fact-sheets/roadsides-as-habitat-for-pollinators- frequently-asked-questions 11.3.4 Top DOT Actions for Pollinators The list below can be useful for communicating within your department or agency and highlighting some of the most important actions that DOTs can take to contribute to pollinator conservation. ï§ Reduce mowing frequency beyond the mown strip in the recovery area so flowering plants have a chance to bloom and support pollinators. ï§ Use native plants in revegetation projects because native plants support more pollinators than nonnative plants. ï§ Protect butterfly host plants, especially the host plants of imperiled butterfly species. ï§ Target herbicide use so that nontarget plants, including those that are host plants or that provide nectar and pollen to pollinators, are not affected. ï§ Time maintenance activities to avoid key breeding periods for imperiled species. ï§ Control noxious and invasive weeds. ï§ Increase diversity of native plants in revegetation areas, which will make the habitat more resilient and able to support a diversity of pollinators. ï§ Prioritize revegetation projects along roadsides where they will be most beneficial for pollinators, such as areas near natural areas or near populations of imperiled pollinators. ï§ Inform the public about the work you are doing to protect pollinators. ï§ Increase the mowing height to 8 to 10 inches to leave vegetation for pollinators to use. ï§ Use adaptive management for managing roadside vegetation; learn from what is working and what needs tweaking.
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-23 ï§ Experiment with vegetation management techniques; learn from local land managers and peers in surrounding states. ï§ Provide training for staff members so they stay up to speed on new management techniques and plant identification and understand how these measures fit into the goals of the DOT and why they are important. ï§ Communicate early with native plant vendors so that they can accommodate your needs, such as growing out any plant material needed for your projects. ï§ Control weeds during construction, before planting, and during revegetation establishment. ï§ Design staff need to coordinate with maintenance staff about future maintenance needed for pollinator habitat revegetation projects. 11.4 CommunicationÂ ResourcesÂ Â This section contains links to resources that may be useful to your communications efforts. 11.4.1 Photo Library The Xerces Society has made photos of roadside habitat as well as photos of pollinators, including butterflies, bees, and monarchs, available for DOTs to use in outreach efforts. The photo library is available on the National Academies Press website (https://nap.nationalacademies.org/). 11.4.2 Graphics Graphics can be a powerful tool for communicating with the public. Graphics can make complicated ideas or processes easier to understand by using visual representations. Consider asking your communications department to create some graphics about the importance of pollinators and native plants found along roadsides in your state for use in outreach materials and social media posts. Below are some additional graphics that may be useful in communicating with the public. ï§ Xerces Graphics. Xerces has created several relevant graphics, including graphics on the importance of pollinators, the many benefits of roadside habitat, and the linkage between plant diversity and the diversity of pollinators and other wildlife. These graphics can be used in DOT communications efforts and can be accessed here: https://xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/roadsides/benefits-roadside-pollinator- habitat and here: https://xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/roadsides/pollinators- keystone-species. ï§ Monarch Life Cycle. This graphic shows the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and could be used in educational materials about these iconic animals. This graphic was created by the Xerces Society and the Monarch Joint Venture conducted in the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, which is administered by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. This graphic is available on the National Academies Press website: https://nap.nationalacademies.org/.
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-24 11.4.3 Videos The Pollinator Habitat Conservation along Roadways video for use in outreach with the public is available on the National Academies Press website (https://nap.nationalacademies.org/). The Pollinator Habitat Conservation along Roadways video for use internally within your transportation agency is available on the National Academies Press website (https://nap.nationalacademies.org/). Videos from other organizations that may be shared to raise awareness of pollinators and the importance of restoring pollinator habitat include: ï§ the Xerces Society YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAiPLPJuySOgn6CbjkOxqLQ; ï§ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service YouTube channel (has several videos on pollinators): https://www.youtube.com/c/usfws/search?query=pollinator; and ï§ a webinar series on monarch butterfly biology and conservation, organized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Monarch Joint Venture: https://nctc.fws.gov/topic/online-training/webinars/monarch-conservation.html. Videos about transportation agencies and their work with pollinator habitat include: ï§ Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdDD0hYUkPo; ï§ Nebraska Department of Transportation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMHB3pOafjs; and ï§ Oklahoma Gardening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZz9keOMW3A. 11.4.4 Editable Presentation A PowerPoint file with regional guidance is available on the National Academies Press website (https://nap.nationalacademies.org/) and can be adapted to give a presentation within your organization.
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-25 11.5 CaseÂ StudiesÂ 11.5.1 Volunteers Help Grow the Colorado Pollinator Highway Recognizing the role that roadsides play in supporting pollinators, the Colorado State Legislature unanimously passed legislation in 2017 that established Interstate 76 as the Colorado Pollinator Highway. The Colorado DOT then launched a pilot project along Interstate 76 near Julesburg, Colorado, with goals to establish native pollinator plants along rights-of-way, improve weed management practices, and increase public awareness of pollinator habitat and connectivity. The Julesburg area was selected for the pilot project because of its proximity to the Nebraska/Colorado state line. The Colorado Welcome Center was an ideal place for the public to learn more about pollinator conservation efforts. Because of the focus on pollinators, Colorado DOT partnered with a number of organizations, including the People and Pollinators Action Network, Butterfly Pavilion, Loveland Initiative for Monarch Butterflies, Colorado Native Plant Society, Denver Botanical Garden, Pheasants Forever, Xerces Society, National Resources Conservation Service, and several native plant seed companies based in Colorado. Partners offered technical assistance, recruited volunteers, or donated seed or equipment. In the fall of 2018, nearly 50 volunteers planted more than 4 acres of roadside pollinator habitat safely. The project has since sparked interest in collecting native seed on roadsides, monitoring habitat and pollinators, identifying appropriate spot treatments, and conducting vegetation inventories in the future. 11.5.2 Communities Collect Milkweeds in Ohio The Ohio DOT is one of many state agencies and organizations that compose the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI). Through OPHI, Ohio DOT has engaged with communities to connect roadsides with pollinator conservation. One effort involved recruiting volunteers throughout the state to collect milkweed seed pods. Volunteers dropped off pods at their local soil and water conservation office, which were then taken to participating Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction facilities. Inmates would remove the milkweed floss from the seeds within the pods. Seeds were then packaged for future distribution at outreach events or planted and grown out in plugs that were planted by Ohio DOT at various sites. 11.5.3 Highway Sponsorships in Minnesota Minnesota DOT acquired land in the early 1970s as a possible site for a new highway rest area. However, the rest area was never built. Some of the land was instead used for staging during construction on the nearby State Route 95. Included in the parcel of land owned by Minnesota DOT was a 4-acre prairie on a steep bluff known as Blueberry Hill. For several decades, Minnesota DOT granted volunteers from The Prairie Enthusiasts, a nonprofit organization, access to the land to conduct land management actions. Volunteers ColoradoÂ DOTÂ workedÂ withÂ aÂ largeÂ groupÂ ofÂ volunteersÂ toÂ helpÂ createÂ pollinatorÂ habitatÂ alongÂ InterstateÂ 76.Â PhotoÂ Credit:Â JasonÂ Roth/CDOTÂ
ChapterÂ 11.Â CommunicationÂ SupportÂ 11-26 collectively spent thousands of hours controlling invasive plants and managing the site for biodiversity. Blueberry Hill is also home to the endangered rusty-patched bumble bee. In 2021, Minnesota DOT proposed that the group become part of the agencyâs Highway Sponsorship Program, authorized by state law in 2017. The program allows âbusinesses, civic groups, and individuals to support the enhancement and maintenance of interstates as well as U.S. and Minnesota highway roadsides.â Minnesota DOT has developed a number of highway sponsorship programs with partners throughout the state. The Prairie Enthusiasts continue to be stewards of Blueberry Hill and the species it harbors.