Home Virginia Pollinator Week: VDOT to install 135 acres of state roadside habitats

Virginia Pollinator Week: VDOT to install 135 acres of state roadside habitats

Photo courtesy Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin proclaimed June 17 to 23, 2024 as Virginia Pollinator Week in recognition of the important role of pollinators to the Commonwealth’s environment and agricultural economy.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will install 135 new acres of pollinator habitats in 2024 as part of its ongoing commitment to protect the valuable ecosystem provided by pollinators such as bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and flies.

Since 2014, VDOT’s Pollinator Habitat Program has created naturalized areas of native plants along state-maintained roads and properties that provide habitats to threatened and dwindling pollinator species. The program began with four plots in northern Virginia.

Five years ago, VDOT joined the nationwide Monarch Butterfly Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, a voluntary agreement between energy and transportation partners and the programs’ administrator, the University of Illinois-Chicago. VDOT’s initial five-year goal was to proactively implement conservation measures on roughly 3,100 acres of interstate roadsides to support the monarch butterfly. Five years into the program, VDOT estimates contributing around 8,000 acres of pollinator habitats along VDOT roadways, well above the initial goal. VDOT performs monitoring each spring season to document milkweed and nectar flowering species.

“Supporting pollinator conservation is a win-win for VDOT, because the agency can save money and improve efficiencies, and pollinators gain thousands of acres of habitat,” Chris Swanson, director of VDOT’s Environmental Division, said. “We value being good stewards of the environment, which is why, throughout the Commonwealth, we’re working to provide safe habitats for pollinators to ensure a healthy and sustainable future.”

In 2024, VDOT and partners will add 107 acres of pollinator habitat plantings in Hampton Roads, 22 acres in the Greater Richmond region and about six acres in Southern Virginia. Last year, VDOT planted 82 new acres across the Commonwealth.

Pollinator corridors assist VDOT in efficiently delivering a safe transportation system. Roadside vegetation reduces erosion and stormwater runoff while providing sediment control. With more flowers and vegetation, VDOT beautifies the roadsides and saves time and money by reducing how often it needs to mow areas along the roadways. Roadsides with healthy plant communities can better resist invasive plants that can require the use of herbicides.

Wildflower and Protect Pollinators license plates help fund the Pollinator Habitat Program. VDOT has partnered with the Department of Motor Vehicles to offer special license plates to support the program.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.