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Linn County has received native grass and flowering broadleaf species 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 1,160 acres was purchased and distributed to 36 counties in Iowa for roadway plantings in 2019 and 2020. Linn County's share will plant 120 roadside acres with 46 species of Iowa native herbaceous vegetation.
Roadways that will receive this seed in Linn County include County Home Road, North Center Point Road, Blairs Ferry Road and Hollenbeck Road. The plantings will create a sustainable right-of-way and provide erosion control, weed control, as well as habitat for a variety of compatible animal 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 and Linn County has participated since its inception.
Landowners are reminded that physical changes in roadside ditches requires a permit from the highway authority. Spraying roadside vegetation results in a physical change. Native species require time to fully establish and diversity of species is critical for the desired performance and documented outcomes of the public efforts.
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.