GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Transportation’s main concern come spring is orange cones, but it’s also thinking about purple cones with its pollinator management program.
“(Pollinators’) population is on the decline, so if there’s something that we can do to help the environment, we’re going to do that,” John Richard, the spokesman for MDOT’s West Michigan region, said. “It’s really important to the environment to help these pollinators out because we’re invading their space.”
There’s a lot of land next to roadsides and it’s a natural place for bees and butterflies to gather.
“They like the linear corridors right? So there’s thousands of miles of median available to plant native species,” Richard said. “And we plant all different kinds to make it diverse because then you have staggered blooming stages, so then the nectar and the pollen is there throughout the entire season for all kinds of bugs, birds, bees, bats, butterflies and moths.”
He listed sunflowers, purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susan perennials among the flowers that the department plants. He added that when crews have to remove trees or bushes for construction projects, the department plants more when the work is done.
“We’re careful where and when we mow. We’re careful where and when we apply materials because we don’t want to blast milkweed, which is a great habitat for many pollinators,” Richard said.
The program has been around for a while and is in effect in other MDOT regions, but it’s a work in progress.
“We’ve got plantings south of (Grand Rapids). We’ve got more on the way north of town, Ottawa County, Allegan County. So then of course last year, those sunflowers in the median by Rockford were beautiful, too. So not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it’s really helpful for the environment.”