BOULDER COUNTY – The Colorado Department of Transportation is hoping traffic increases along a stretch of I-76 from Arvada to Nebraska. Bumbling, zipping, hovering and crawling, all types of drivers are welcome on the special roadway CDOT is maintaining to protect our pollinators.
With the unanimous approval of Joint Resolution 17-1029 on May 8, the Colorado General Assembly ensured that bees, butterflies, and other pollinators have something to buzz about along I-76, the Colorado Pollinator Highway. Recognizing that native ecosystems and agriculture benefit when pollinators are protected, Colorado’s leaders in the House and Senate designated the stretch of road to be used to provide habitat for the smallest of citizens.
“CDOT Landscape Architecture Division had this idea, which came from their staff. We’re trying to build off CDOT policies that create roadside habitats,” says Joyce Kennedy, coordinator for People and Pollinators Action Network. The advocacy group worked with CDOT to bring the proposal to the Colorado legislature.
CDOT has been identifying potential habitats along roadways, looking for those with potential for different management approaches to enhance and protect animals, birds or insects around them. The Pollinator Highway will help raise awareness of pollinators and provide signs to help educate people on the topic.
Concern over dwindling numbers of native and domesticated pollinators has advocacy groups encouraging action on measures to halt the losses. Restoration of lost habitat is crucial to those efforts. “I-76 runs though rural and urban areas and a number of different ecosystems,” said Kennedy, “By improving mowing policies to cut down on mowing, spot spraying noxious weeds, and using bio-controls to control weeds, roadsides can be good habitat.”
CDOT plans to use more native plants and grasses as they restore roadsides, plus train road maintenance crews in techniques to keep the habitats intact. Losses to windshields shouldn’t be an issue because good habitat will keep insects within a swath instead of foraging in the middle of the road.
The Colorado Pollinator Highways is one piece of the puzzle for helping pollinators overcome their losses. With urbanization taking a toll on diverse habitats, backyard gardeners can play their part by planting a variety of plants that flower throughout the season.
Instead of spraying pesticides willy-nilly about the yard, use targeted approaches for controlling pests. The first step is correctly identifying what the pest is and then trying low impact controls, such as hand picking, before reaching for a spray. Try to tolerate a little nibbling on a leaf; sacrificing a snack to an insect is part and parcel of having a garden. Choose any pesticide carefully, read and follow the directions on the label, keeping in mind that most prohibit use on plants in flower.
Throughout June, Colorado museums, libraries, businesses, gardens and farmer’s markets will be hosting pollinator activities and events. To see a complete list of Pollinator Month events and to find out how you can support pollinators, visit coloradopollinatormonth.com.
By Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension. Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail [email protected] or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.