NYS DOT celebrates national pollinator week and highlights statewide commitment to protect pollinators

Efforts Are Part of the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan

WATERTOWN, NY —  State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez today highlighted the Department’s efforts to protect pollinators and their habitats as part of National Pollinator Week, which takes place from June 19 to 23. The New York State Department of Transportation has taken numerous steps across all parts of the state to protect the valuable ecosystem provided by pollinators such as bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, moths, wasps, and flies.

“Pollinator week is an annual celebration of pollinator health – a time to raise awareness of pollinators and spread the word about what we can do to address the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations,” Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said.  “At the Department of Transportation, we take pride in our efforts to be good stewards of the environment which is why, throughout the state, NYSDOT is working to provide safe habitats for pollinators to ensure a healthy and sustainable future.”

Pollination is a vital stage in the life cycle of all flowering plants, and the transfer of pollen is necessary for healthy and productive native and agricultural ecosystems. The Department of Transportation continues to do its part to protect pollinators and their habitats. This includes increasing acreage with reduced or altered mowing practices to avoid disruptions to pollinator life cycles, providing late-season forage, and aiding in wildflower seed dispersal. Department staff maintain pollinator gardens and offer new vegetation management guidelines that include control methods other than mowing. The Department also continues to actively manage several research projects, using federal State Planning and Research (SPR) funds, to benefit pollinators, including utilization of soils to support pollinators, studying the effects of a modified mowing regime in NYSDOT rights of way on pollinators and vegetation, and swallow-wort biocontrol.

Elsewhere around the state:

In the Capital Region, the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Services Unit and Greene County Residency recently partnered with the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District in a special Arbor Day celebration establishing a pollinator enhancement area adjacent to a parking area along Route 23A in the town of Jewett. Other projects included planting 260 herbaceous plants and 36 shrubs around an existing stormwater area on the grounds of the Adirondacks Welcome Center and re-establishing native vegetation along the Northway (I-87) corridor near Exit 17 with plants and seed mixes.

In the Mohawk Valley, NYSDOT controls miles of roadside vegetation that can be managed in different ways to be ecologically functional. After repairing an embankment and culvert failure, the Department found an opportunity to seed with a pollinator mix to reduce mowing and improve pollinator habitat, working with the Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District to use products to encourage vegetation even with poor soil conditions. This site will be monitored to determine the success of these products so they can be used in the future.

In Central New York, NYSDOT and the Thruway Authority worked together to experiment with wildflower establishments on the I-81 Southbound ramp at 7th N. Street using a no-till seed drill. A wildflower mix that is resistant to herbicide was planted. If effective, that Onondaga East residency will be able to keep this plot weed free. By reducing weed pressure, the wildflowers will re-seed themselves each year and provide an excellent pollinator habitat.

In the Finger Lakes, there are pollinator gardens at the Interstate 390 northbound and southbound rest stops in the town of Mount Morris, Livingston County. Just last year, these gardens were enlarged and received new plantings which will support pollinators in the area, particularly the monarch butterfly. These rest areas are also equipped with educational signage outlining why pollinators are so beneficial for our ecosystem. Also, in two projects (one ongoing and one completed last year) along I-390 in Monroe and Livingston Counties, NYSDOT identified over 24 acres of land to be maintained in a state that promotes the growth of wildflowers and supports pollinators.

In Western New York, there has been reduced mowing on the slope between Fuhrmann Boulevard and Route 5 in the city of Buffalo to encourage the growth of pollinator plants including Viper’s Bugloss, Common Milkweed, and English daisies. This area is marked with delineators that have a butterfly on them to alert crews to the pollinator area.

In the Hudson Valley, there are pollinator projects in every county, including along the parkways from Columbia County to Westchester County. In Northern Westchester County alone, there are nine pollinator areas along the Taconic State Parkway and one along Interstate 684.  The newest one is located at the Bedford rest area on Interstate 684. In Columbia County, there are two projects along the Taconic. One is at the Philmont/Claverack overlooks and the other is in the center median just south of Thruway.

In the Eastern Southern Tier, a wildflower seeding took place at a stormwater basin along State Route 434 near Pennsylvania Avenue in Vestal, Tioga County. All of the species that were planted are known to attract and feed pollinators. Since 2012, roughly 50 native wildflower seed mixes have been planted, which help support the native pollinators.

In the Western Southern Tier, an emphasis was placed on promoting pollinators and included the planting of two pear trees at the Friendship Rest Area along I-86, four apple trees at the Kanona Rest Area along I-86, six apple trees at the Erwin/Addison parking area along I-99, three pear trees at the Watkins Glenn Parking area along State Route 414, and grape vines at the Penn Yan parking area along State Route 54A.

On Long Island, plantings and seedings have taken place to benefit pollinators, specifically the Monarch butterfly. Locations of these areas include areas on the Northern State Parkway at Route 231 southwest quadrant in Dix Hills, the Route 347 Greenway at Mount Pleasant Rd in Smithtown, the Ocean Parkway median near Oak Beach, and the Route 27 median in Southampton.

In New York City, NYSDOT’s Landscaping/Environmental section is working on the Monarch Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA), which is a statewide effort to designate a certain percentage of our right of way for Monarch butterfly habitats. In addition, on capital projects that include vegetative areas adjacent to our right of way, DOT works with the Parks Department to establish areas of native plantings that support pollinators.

For those who are interested in helping pollinators, there are many things you can do. You can create pollinator-friendly habitats with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar and pollen and have room for nesting. You can also reduce or eliminate your pesticide use and increase green spaces. And spread the word. Educate your neighbors, schools, and community groups about the importance of pollinators.

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