CATCH THE BUZZ – Resolution designates Interstate 76 as Colorado’s first “Pollinator Highway”

Colorado became friendlier to pollinators this week by passing the “Colorado Pollinator Highway” Resolution HJR 1029. The Resolution sponsored by Representative KC Becker and Senator Jerry Sonnenberg passed both the House and Senate unanimously and designates Interstate 76 from the Nebraska state line to Arvada, Colorado. The designation will allow better vegetation management, education and outreach to support pollinator habitat along the roadway.

“Restoring and managing roadsides is vital if we hope to bring back pollinators,” said Jennifer Hopwood of the Xerces Society. “We are delighted that the Colorado Department of Transportation and the State of Colorado are stepping up to help in this important effort.”

Using existing tools and programs, the resolution directs the Colorado Department of Transportation to designate Interstate 76 as the Colorado Pollinator Highway. This allows the department to accept gifts, grants or donations to install signage for public education. The measure will also direct CDOT to coordinate with local governments, willing landowners and other groups to utilize Integrated Roadside Vegetative Management strategies to develop pollinator habitat where appropriate. These efforts have been found to save state transportation agencies money as the maintenance needs of pollinator habitat are very low.

 “The designation will advance Colorado efforts to expand and improve habitat on the I-76 transportation corridor emphasizing coordination and outreach. We hope I-76 will become a model for others to follow in our quest to help pollinators and better manage the indigenous plants along our corridors. We admire the decision by our state government to see the need to promote integrated vegetation management by passing this resolution. It will be a privilege to work with I-76 CDOT Maintenance and Operations and the community to implement the intent of the resolution” said Michael Banowich of the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Colorado is home to over 950 native bee species, butterflies and other insect pollinators, all of which are vital to our state’s economy, food security, and environmental health. Nationwide, Honeybee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to our agricultural crops each year, and provides the backbone to ensuring our diets are plentiful and varied. “Unfortunately, pollinator populations have been declining rapidly due to multiple stressors. “Among these stressors is habitat loss and fragmentation and a lack of availability of forage. A diverse and thriving pollinator population supports agriculture and a diverse ecosystem and there are simple tools we can engage to expand pollinator habitat in Colorado,” said Beth Conrey of People and Pollinators Action Network and past president of the Colorado State Beekeepers Association. “One area that provides an ideal opportunity is our state roadways and how we manage them.”

David Julie, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Colorado Native Plant Society said that, “Colorado’s bounty of native wildflowers supports and depends upon healthy, diverse populations of animal pollinators.  The Colorado Native Plant Society appreciates that this resolution highlights the essential role of pollinators and the need to protect them.”