Pollinator Habitat Plan

Introduction

Butterflies on plantsThe Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration’s (MDOT SHA) Pollinator Habitat Plan was developed in response to the 2016 Pollinator Protection Act of the Maryland General Assembly, § 2-1801 Pollinator Habitat Plan and the 2017 amendments to the Act in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Pollinator Protection Plan.

Importance of Pollinators

Pollinators – including wild pollinators such as bees, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds, as well as managed hives of honeybees – are essential to our well-being and play an important part in healthy ecosystems. Maryland alone supports over 400 species of native bees, the most important group of pollinators in the state according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. An estimated 85% of the world’s flowering plants depend on animals for pollination and successful fruit development, including many crops that produce our fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and livestock forage.

Both wild and managed pollinators have been declining in population due to a loss of habitat, the spread of disease and other factors, making it important now, more than ever, to implement strategies that promote the success of these species. 

Goals

The goals of the MDOT SHA Pollinator Habitat Plan are to create, enhance and manage habitats that support bees, butterflies and other threatened and dwindling pollinators by:​​

  1. ​​​Establishing perennial wildflowers and meadow grasses that provide nectar, pollen and nesting sites for pollinators. 
  2. Providing refuge areas with plants and seeds that have not been treated with neonicotinoid pesticides. 
  3. Installing educational and informational signage about pollinators and their habitat for public awareness.​

Strategy

​MDOT SHA has implemented several strategies to enhance pollinator habitat, food, shelter and mobility networks in an effort to support the various life stages of these important species. Strategies include both current practices and future plans to ensure the preservation and success of Maryland’s pollinator species.

Construction of Demonstration Gardens

  • ​Small, example habitats to educate and demonstrate how these environments can be constructed at various scales across the state.
  • Typically managed as a landscape garden with interpretive signage.
  • Provide stakeholders with informational resources to build their own pollinator gardens.​

MDOT SHA constructed ten demonstration gardens that provide pollinator habitat at five SHA office locations and three welcome centers:

  • ​MDOT SHA District 3, 4, 5 and 7 Offices
  • MDOT SHA Hanover Complex 
  • Mason Dixon Welcome Center in Frederick County
  • South Mountain Welcome Centers (eastbound and westbound) in Frederick County
  • I-95 Welcome Centers (southbound and northbound) in Howard County 

Pollinators  


Establishment and Management of Roadside Pollinator Meadows

  • MDOT SHA Designs and installs meadows in roadway construction projects, where appropriate, in areas to safely accommodate taller vegetation without compromising safety offsets, vehicle recovery clear zones and sightline clearances, thus maintaining visibility for intersections, access points, pedestrian crossings, signs and signalization equipment.  
  • Meadow areas outside of clear zones should be mowed once per year during the dormant season (November-March) and selectively treated for invasive species. These areas:
    • ​​Include late season flowering plants that provide nectar to pollinators migrating south.
    • Allow seeds to set and disperse to preserve the next generation of perennial flowers and grasses, further expanding pollinator habitat.
  • ​​While MDOT SHA continues a mowing schedule for its right-of-way clear zones, the agency does allow some areas outside the clear zones to grow. Mowing less frequently in these specific areas encourages native meadow species to emerge, supporting pollinator habitat and food sources like milkweed. It’s important to note that MDOT SHA actively mows the clear zones immediately adjacent to the roadway to preserve a safe and reliable roadway system by maintaining safety offsets, vehicle recovery clear zones and sightline clearances.
  • MDOT SHA manages over 50,000 acres of roadside areas outside of the paved surfaces, including forests, meadows, wetlands and waterways.  All site types provide environmental benefits, habitat, food source and connectivity for pollinators and other wildlife. MDOT SHA strives to maintain a balance of these environment types to promote environmental stewardship and meet programmatic and regulatory goals. 

MDOT SHA promotes the installation of meadows on highway development projects in areas without clear zone requirements. Standard MDOT SHA meadow establishment specifications for seed mixes and best management practices for these areas promote the growth of diverse, native meadow habitats. MDOT SHA constructed three pollinator meadows along the right of way in the Spring of 2024 at the following locations:

  • US 50 westbound, north of MD 213 in Queen Anne's County;
  • MD 3 (Crain Highway) southbound at the MD 32 (Patuxent Freeway) interchange in Anne Arundel County; and
  • I-70 median between St. John's Lane and Bethany Lane, west of US 29 intersection in Howard County.​


Pollinators 

Meadow Establishment Locations Site Search and Existing Meadow Site inventory

MDOT SHA is actively investigating and tracking statewide pollinator habitat site development opportunities within the right of way.  Sites of interest include areas that can be established as demonstration gardens and pollinator meadows for future pollinator habitat projects.  MDOT SHA is inventorying existing areas managed as meadow to quantify acreage, install signage to publicly identify meadow establishment areas and to promote these areas as pollinator habitat meadows.

​​Benefits of Pollinator Habitat Sites​

Development of pollinator habitat sites, in addition to providing habitat for important pollinator species, provides the following benefits:

  • Estab​lishment of native plant ecosystems rather than invasive species.
  • Stormwater management and erosion reduction.
  • Promotion of healthier soil and ecosystems.
  • Greater potential for carbon sequestration.
  • Creation of aesthetically pleasing roadside landscapes.​

Additional Resources​

For additional information cont​act:​

Stacey Shackelford
MDOT SHA Office of Environmental Design – Landscape Programs Division
Phone: (410) 545-8547
Email: SShackelford1@mdot.maryland.gov​​

Pollinator 



Updated June 17, 2024