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Mr. Smarty Plants - Wildflower programs on our highways

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Monday - November 17, 2008

From: Maitland, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Managing Roadsides
Title: Wildflower programs on our highways
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Do you have any statistics about the wildflower program on our highways? We are wanting information about economic savings by not mowing so much, or pollution reduction by not mowing. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

ANSWER:

As you may know, our founder Mrs. Johnson, was a great proponent of using wildflowers along state and interstate right-of-ways. As a direct results of her efforts, many states and the federal government now have programs to encourage and enable wildflower planting along highways and byways. In every state the landscaping of the rights-of-way of federal highways with native wildflowers is being carried out under "Operation Wildflower"and the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act (STURAA) of 1987. STURRA requires that at 1/4 one percent of funds spent on landscaping projects for Federal-aid highways must be used to plant native plants. You can read about some of these programs and their use of wildflowers and see the "1998 Revised Guidance for the Native Wildlflower Planting Requirement" on the page Roadside Use of Native Plants. Florida Department of Transportation, along with Florida Wildflower Foundation, has an active wildflowers for highways program.  Many other states also have their own wildflower initiatives, for instance: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Tennessee. You can find more states with wildflower programs by doing a "Google" search on "state wildlfower programs". The U. S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highways Administration (FHWA), has available Roadside Use of Native Plants by Bonnie L. Harper-Lore and Maggie Wilson.  It is a "glove-compartment size handbook...a reference for those who restore, design, or manage native plants. Its State by State organization of information is a beginning point in decision-making. To make site by site decisions within a State, local expertise will be necessary. This information is aimed at preserving the native remnants that still exist and restoring natural heritage where necessary." Part I (Roadside Restoration and Management Essays), Part II (Plant and Resource Lists) and Part III (Appendices - including Policy, For More Information, and Vegetation Types) are all available on line. FHWA also has an informative web site addressing Roadside Vegetation Management.

The Openlands Corporatelands Project is a notable non-profit group in Illinois that is involved in projects to utilize native plants in restoration and beautification projects. On their website they have information about benefits of natural landscaping and offer Installing Natural Landscaping on Your Campus: A Cost Estimate Workbook.  They also have available as a downloadable PDF file,  Excerpts from the Sourcebook on Natural Landscaping for Local Officials, from the Northern Illinois Planning Commission (NPIC). This file gives examples of "Natural Landscaping Installations and Maintenance Costs". For another estimate, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency publishes A Source Book on Natural Landscaping for Public Officials online that outlines the economic benefits of using natural vegetation.

 

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