NWF Mag - Congratulations to Habitat Highways Heroes! - From highway corridor nature dead zones to pollinator friendly native wildflowers (yes, can still have driver safety cutback strips)
STARTING JUST A STONE'S THROW from the shores of Lake Superior, Interstate 35 heads south for more than 1,500 miles through fields of corn and soybeans and the remnants of midwestern prairie until it reaches the Texas chaparral country hard by the Rio Grande. Author Larry McMurtry, in his book Roads, called it “the long and lonesome 35.” But to biologists like Michael Gale, a special assistant to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this interstate could one day become “the monarch highway.”
“It overlaps perfectly with the central flyway of migrating eastern monarchs,” says Gale, a participant in a multi-agency federal plan to increase numbers of this beloved but beleaguered butterfly. During the past two decades, the population of overwintering monarchs in Mexico—where the majority of the continent’s monarch butterflies spend the cold months—has plummeted by as much as 90 percent, primarily as a result of habitat loss in the United States.
An interstate highway may seem an unlikely place to create butterfly habitat. But across the country, roadside rights-of-way are attracting the attention of biologists and conservationists, not just for their potential to help monarchs but other wildlife as well. Roadsides can support a surprising variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, moths, flies and other insects. Long-distance migratory birds such as the ruby-throated hummingbird can use roadside habitats as pit stops for resting and feeding. Scientists even have found small mammals thriving on the edges of highways. ...