At every step of building its Pollinator Habitat Program, ODOT has formed partnerships to share in establishment and maintenance of new sites to ensure the sustainability of its pollinator habitats. This reduces ODOT’s long-term maintenance responsibilities, allows organizations the opportunity participate in a public-private partnership, and gives ownership to communities.
ODOT works with local, state and federal agencies, and private organizations to plan and implement new roadside pollinator habitats around the state. Partnerships with government agencies, private organizations, OPHI, and soil and water conservation districts will ensure long-term sustainability of ODOT’s pollinator habitat program.
ODNR and Pheasants Forever
In 2013, ODOT, ODNR and Pheasants Forever constructed ODOT’s first roadside pollinator habitat in Darke County. Native grasses and perennial wildflowers that reseed every year were planted, with the goal of creating a sustainable and low maintenance habitat for pollinators. The planting was a success and with some minor adjustments to the seed mix, ODOT began planting additional pollinator habitats.
In July 2017, ODOT contracted with Pheasants Forever to provide technical assistance on pollinator habitat site identification, wildlife and vegetation assessment, site preparation, installation, maintenance, and monitoring.
The National Wild Turkey Federation
In June 2017, ODOT partnered with the National Wild Turkey Federation who will provide the labor, equipment, and materials to install a 3-acre pollinator habitat in Preble County. All they asked for in exchange was the use of ODOT’s land at one of our outposts and a recognition sign. They signed a four-year renewable maintenance agreement with us to maintain the site during establishment.
Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for the Monarch butterfly with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
ODOT, along with 12 other DOTs, FHWA, and the oil and gas, electric, and rail sectors are currently drafting an umbrella Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) with the FWS for the Monarch butterfly. CCAAs are voluntary conservation agreements between the FWS and one or more public or private parties. The FWS works with its partners to identify threats to candidate species, plan the measures needed to address the threats and conserve these species, develop agreements, and design and implement conservation measures and identify their effectiveness.
If a CCAA is not pursued, and the Monarch becomes a Federal-listed species in July 2020, ROW organizations might expect:
- Regulatory uncertainty — As with any new listing, ROW managers will need to adjust to a “new norm” of managing ROW to avoid and minimize incidental takes. This adjustment process can take weeks or months of staff time to learn, adapt, and communicate with their teams.
- Project delays — Along with the uncertainty, projects and maintenance work being conducted at the time of listing may require "Stop Work" in certain locations as project managers adapt to conservation measures for the monarch.
- After-the-fact-coverage — To avoid impacts to Monarchs, ROW managers would then need to adapt their work to avoid incidental takes on a project-by-project basis, or begin a process to secure an Incidental Take Permit, or a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Monarch.
- Differing conservation measures — With a CCAA, the applicants can understand and secure conservation measures upfront, and can expect these to be a consistent range wide. Once species are listed, ROW managers (without a CCAA) are required to adhere to whatever conservation measures are mandated for the species, and conservation measures may differ field office to field office.
Pollinator Habitat Education Gardens at Ohio Rest Stops
Over the July 4th weekend in 2017, ODOT cut the ribbon at a news conference in Toledo at ODOT’s first Pollinator Habitat Education Garden at the I-75 southbound Welcome Center in Wood County. The site includes a one-third acre demonstration garden featuring 12 native grasses and wildflowers that can be found alongside Ohio’s highways. Interpretive signage within the garden describes the plight of pollinators, especially honeybees, and what ODOT is doing to help their declining populations recover:
"Unlike wildflower plantings that bloom once then die off, pollinator habitats consist of native grasses and perennial wildflowers that reseed every year making them sustainable and requiring very little maintenance after they are established. Pollinator habitats provide food and nesting ground for pollinators like the Monarch butterfly, hummingbirds, bees, and other insects that pollinate the food we eat. In fact, one in three bites of food we eat come from pollinators! And with agriculture being Ohio’s largest industry, worth $105 billion each year, pollinator habitats not only help secure our food supply, but the state’s economy as well."
As part of the Wood County Pollinator Habitat Education Garden project, ODOT developed a special pollinator mix seed packet for vending machines at Ohio’s rest stops. 100 percent of the proceeds are going to Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. ODOT is developing three more Pollinator Habitat Education Gardens in Gallia, Preble, and Warren counties in 2018. More sites are being planned for the future.
'Big Switch' Soil Erosion Control Sock
ODOT, The Wilds, Zane State University, and BEG Group are working on a collaborative project to install erosion control socks filled with switchgrass straw and common milkweed seeds along Interstate 70 in Muskingum County. The socks are biodegradable and will not need to be removed once the plants are established. The product name, which is produced and marketed by BEG Group is The Big Switch, or more commonly The Switchgrass Filter Sock. This project utilizes a new and innovative method to increase the availability of common milkweed for monarch butterflies, a species in precipitous population decline in North America. Milkweed seeds, the host plant for monarchs, are being added to switchgrass erosion-control socks for the dual purpose of intercepting surface runoff and increasing monarch butterfly habitat. ODOT will install these socks on high, steep slopes where it would otherwise be impractical to develop a pollinator habitat.
Post-Construction Groundcover Research Project
ODOT’s Office of Maintenance Operations, in cooperation with the Office of Statewide Research and the Division of Construction, is seeking to replace current post-construction groundcover (Kentucky bluegrass, tall and fine fescue, annual and perennial ryegrass, and the legume crown vetch) with pollinator-beneficial wildflowers, native grasses, and legumes.
Native wildflowers, grasses, and legumes thrive in poor and compacted soils, are salt-tolerant, and have extensive root systems that can exceed 20 feet, lending themselves to being an inexpensive and ideal solution to soil erosion, slips, and slides. By directly seeding new construction projects with pollinator-beneficial wildflowers, native grasses, and legumes, ODOT could 1) Establish hundreds of acres of new pollinator habitat each year benefiting threatened species like the Monarch butterfly and honeybees, 2) Reduce roadside maintenance costs through mowing and herbicide reduction, and 3) Improve storm water runoff by creating vegetative bio-filters.
ODOT, the US Department of Agriculture, ODNR, Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and private landowners will construct Shelterbelts (living snow fences) on farm fields and private land on the western side of north-south, two-lane, interstate, and interstate lookalike highways in northwest Ohio. Locations will be selected based on traffic volumes, propensity for blowing and drifting snow, snow and ice-related crashes and their severity, and available adjacent farmland. Shelterbelts consist of evergreens, native grasses, flowering shrubs, and wildflowers. ODOT will pay private landowners $100 per acre - the upfront cost required by USDA to participate in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The benefits of shelterbelts include: reduced snow and ice costs (plowing back on north/south roads), environmental (reduction of salt into waterways), pollinator habitat (providing nesting and foraging habitat for the Monarch butterfly and other pollinators), cost reduction (replaces annual labor/material costs of installing plastic and wood snow fences).