The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been hard at work since 2017 planting pollinator habitats around the state. ODOT has 120 plots in 57 of Ohio’s 88 counties comprising 1,200 acres, or two square miles. In addition, ODOT has reduced its mowing operations from four times per year to once per year creating 80,000 acres of suitable habitat for pollinators. ODOT’s pollinator habitat seed mix includes 26 wildflower species and four native warm season bunch grasses. Once established, at least three species of wildflowers are always blooming from early spring through late fall.
Ohio law mandates ODOT mow medians and foreslopes (30 feet from the edge of pavement to the ditch) regularly for line-of-sight and errant vehicle recovery. Some states do not have that restriction.
Finally, ODOT is in year 3 of a 5-year study to develop native post-construction groundcover seed mixes. Native plants help sequester carbon, prevent soil erosion, filter stormwater, and provide nectar resources and shelter for pollinators. By directly seeding bare ground with natives after a construction project ends, ODOT’s long-term vegetation maintenance costs will be reduced. The added benefit is they will serve as beautification for motorists.
ODOT is working with departments of transportation, gas and electric transmission companies, private landowners, and federal agencies to convert millions of acres of idle land into naturalized land that connects pollinator habitats through the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for the Monarch Butterfly. You will see more naturalized areas in the coming years as you travel, not just in Ohio, but across the country.