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Plymouth — State wildlife and transportation officials gathered today at the Route 3, Exit 5 Rest Area in Plymouth to announce a $21,500 grant from the US Fish & Wildlife Service to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) to restore populations of monarch butterflies and other native and rare pollinating insects in Massachusetts. MassWildlife will partner with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to increase habitat for pollinating insects by seeding highway median and roadside areas with a mix of milkweed and other native plants for pollinators.
“Pollinators and their habitats play an important ecological and agricultural role in Massachusetts,” said MassWildlife Director Jack Buckley. “This interagency project will improve conditions of common and rare pollinators and their habitats and serve as a model and visual reminder to other Massachusetts land owners that by implementing simple landscape maintenance practices, they can improve the ecological value of our lands.”
"The Massachusetts Transportation Department is always pleased to partner with non-profits and other groups to undertake projects benefitting the community and the world we live in,” said District 5 Highway Director Mary-Joe Perry. “MassDOT landscapes as part of its highway and bridge projects so it is a common sense and worthwhile step to take in creating habitats as we complete necessary construction work. I'd like to thank MassWildlife for helping us be good stewards of our natural resources."
Working together, MassDOT will identify suitable post-construction seeding locations and MassWildlife will purchase native seed mixes appropriate for monarchs and other pollinators. The seed mix will include nectar and pollen bearing plants that bloom during the optimal time for monarch migration and provide food for other pollinating insects. To accommodate bloom times, MassDOT will reduce mowing of seeded areas to once every 2-3 years. These roadside meadows will be marked with signage to inform mowing operators of the limits and to advise the public that the un-mowed meadows are habitat restoration sites. To increase public awareness about pollinators, MassWildlife will also create a pollinator demonstration plot at its Field Headquarters on the Wayne F. MacCallum Wildlife Management Area in Westborough.
Scientific surveys and data collection have found that the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has experienced significant population declines throughout its range in the past decade. Monarchs and several other insects require specific food and larval host plants, making them particularly vulnerable to habitat loss or degradation. In the Northeast, loss of meadow habitat that supports milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.), the only plant on which female monarchs lay their eggs and the hatched larvae feed, has contributed to the butterflies’ decline. The lack of flowering plants and meadow habitats in general has also negatively affected other state-listed (rare) insects that depend on pollen and nectar. To enhance and increase habitat benefitting monarchs and other pollinators within the East Coast Migration Corridor, scientists recommend creating and seeding meadow habitats with native wildflowers and grasses and reducing mowing as effective conservation actions.
“MassWildlife is demonstrating a commitment to conserving monarch butterflies, pollinators and other imperiled species through this partnership and project with MassDOT,” said Colleen Sculley, Chief of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region. “I commend our partners for their efforts to use innovative management methods for habitat restoration to help these species that contribute to the wellbeing of our green spaces and landscapes, our health and food supply. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to support this partnership.”
The pollinator project is part of a broader partnership between MassDOT and MassWildlife called “Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife.” Established in 2008, this agency partnership aims to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improve public safety and identify areas where habitats impacted by roads can be enhanced, protected or restored for wildlife. It is also intended to streamline regulatory environmental reviews and collaborate on environmental issues during early stages of transportation planning and design work, and to implement wildlife and transportation research initiatives.
For additional information on the “Linking Landscapes” partnership, click here.