A growing number of state departments of transportation (DOTs) are introducing conservation mowing programs that aim to reduce the frequency of roadside mowing while expanding the footprint of pollinator habitat. Wanting to get a better handle on the utility conservation mowing, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) funded this study to explore the economic and environmental benefits that accrue from mowing less often. This report presents a synthesis of best conservation mowing practices based on a review of landscape management policies, programs, and procedures in use at 15 state DOTs. Most agencies divide the roadside into discrete management zones. While they continue to mow regularly in the areas closest to roadways (extending roughly 15 feet or so from the edge of the shoulder), beyond this mowing is done less often and is combined with selective herbicide use to facilitate plant species favored by pollinators. Regardless of the mowing strategy adopted, vehicle safety must be preserved by maintaining adequate clear zones and sight distances. An economic analysis of different mowing strategies found that KYTC can save between $9 million and $24 million over a five-year period through mowing cutbacks. Eliminating a single litter cycle can generate an additional $5 million in savings over the same period. To facilitate communication with the public, a proof-of-concept marketing document is put forward which explains to the driving public how KYTC is adjusting its landscape management practices. Dubbed Kentucky’s Buzzing!, the goal is to provide the public with readily understood explanations of why pollinators matter and how the Cabinet can improve their fortunes through conservation mowing.
Digital Object Identifier
Van Dyke, Chris; Wallace, Candice; and Kreis, Doug, "Economic and Environmental Benefits of a Reduced Roadside Mowing Program for Kentucky Highways" (2021). Kentucky Transportation Center Research Report. 1724.