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Linn County has received native grass and native forb seed for roadway plantings that will help improve roadway safety and habitats.
Thanks to partnerships with the Federal Highway Administration Transportation Alternatives Program and the University of Northern Iowa Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program (IRVM), native grass and wildflower seed for 1,300 acres was purchased and distributed to 39 counties in Iowa for roadway plantings in 2018. Linn County's share will plant 140 roadside acres with 37 species of Iowa native grasses, grass-like plants, and flowering native broadleaf species.
Roadways that will receive this seed in 2018 or 2019 include County Home Road, Mount Vernon Road, North Center Point Road, Spencers Grove Road, Edgewood Road, and Lewis Access Road. The plantings will create a sustainable right-of-way and provide erosion control, weed control, as well as habitat for a variety of species. The flowering plants provide a nectar source for pollinators, and the milkweed species that are included provide a food source for the Monarch butterfly.
Native right-of-way plantings filter and slow down water that runs off road surfaces, provide exceptional habitat for pollinators and songbirds, improve erosion control and weed control, and provide surface roughness to retain rolling and skipping snow during winter months, thereby reducing the possibilities of roadway icing along wider hard surfaced roadways. The IRVM program at UNI has helped facilitate this seed purchase for public road rights-of-way since 1998.
Landowners are reminded that roadside mowing of ditches before July 15 that is beyond 200 yards of an inhabited dwelling is prohibited in Iowa. This mowing restriction within public rights-of-way also helps with habitat and water retention issues. There are exceptions to the roadside mowing rule, such as mowing for safety, plant establishment and plant control.
For more information about native plantings in roadsides, visit www.tallgrassprairiecenter.org/irvm-brochures or www.iowalivingroadway.com. Linn County has been planting roadways with diverse native mixes since 1991.