State Wildlife and Transportation Agencies Work Together to Save Pollinating Species

PLYMOUYH – August 24, 2016 – State wildlife and transportation officials gathered
today at the Route 3, Exit 5 Rest Area in Plymouth to announce a $21,500 grant from
the US Fish & Wildlife Service to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and
Wildlife (MassWildlife) to restore populations of monarch butterflies and other
native and rare pollinating insects in Massachusetts. MassWildlife will partner with
the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to increase habitat for
pollinating insects by seeding highway median and roadside areas with a mix of
milkweed and other native plants for pollinators.

«Pollinators and their habitats play an important ecological and agricultural role
in Massachusetts,» said MassWildlife Director Jack Buckley. «This interagency
project will improve conditions of common and rare pollinators and their habitats
and serve as a model and visual reminder to other Massachusetts land owners that by
implementing simple landscape maintenance practices, they can improve the ecological
value of our lands.»

«The Massachusetts Transportation Department is always pleased to partner with
non-profits and other groups to undertake projects benefitting the community and the
world we live in,» said District 5 Highway Director Mary-Joe Perry. «MassDOT
landscapes as part of its highway and bridge projects so it is a common sense and
worthwhile step to take in creating habitats as we complete necessary construction
work. I’d like to thank MassWildlife for helping us be good stewards of our natural
resources.»

Working together, MassDOT will identify suitable post-construction seeding locations
and MassWildlife will purchase native seed mixes appropriate for monarchs and other
pollinators. The seed mix will include nectar and pollen bearing plants that bloom
during the optimal time for monarch migration and provide food for other pollinating
insects. To accommodate bloom times, MassDOT will reduce mowing of seeded areas to
once every 2-3 years. These roadside meadows will be marked with signage to inform
mowing operators of the limits and to advise the public that the un-mowed meadows
are habitat restoration sites. To increase public awareness about pollinators,
MassWildlife will also create a pollinator demonstration plot at its Field
Headquarters on the Wayne F. MacCallum Wildlife Management Area in Westborough.

Scientific surveys and data collection have found that the monarch butterfly (Danaus
plexippus) has experienced significant population declines throughout its range in
the past decade. Monarchs and several other insects require specific food and larval
host plants, making them particularly vulnerable to habitat loss or degradation. In
the Northeast, loss of meadow habitat that supports milkweed plants (Asclepias
spp.), the only plant on which female monarchs lay their eggs and the hatched larvae
feed, has contributed to the butterflies’ decline. The lack of flowering plants and
meadow habitats in general has also negatively affected other state-listed (rare)
insects that depend on pollen and nectar. To enhance and increase habitat
benefitting monarchs and other pollinators within the East Coast Migration Corridor,
scientists recommend creating and seeding meadow habitats with native wildflowers
and grasses and reducing mowing as effective conservation actions.

«MassWildlife is demonstrating a commitment to conserving monarch butterflies,
pollinators and other imperiled species through this partnership and project with
MassDOT,» said Colleen Sculley, Chief of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration
Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region. «I commend our
partners for their efforts to use innovative management methods for habitat
restoration to help these species that contribute to the wellbeing of our green
spaces and landscapes, our health and food supply. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service is proud to support this partnership.»

The pollinator project is part of a broader partnership between MassDOT and
MassWildlife called «Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife.» Established in
2008, this agency partnership aims to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improve
public safety and identify areas where habitats impacted by roads can be enhanced,
protected or restored for wildlife. It is also intended to streamline regulatory
environmental reviews and collaborate on environmental issues during early stages of
transportation planning and design work, and to implement wildlife and
transportation research initiatives.

For additional information on the «Linking Landscapes» partnership, click
here.