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Roadside Use of Native Plants

Native Wildflower Requirement Agreement

In 1995 an exemption was granted the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) by the Federal Highway Administration. Because the planting of native wildflowers might not be appropriate on all projects, especially urban sites, a type of banking alternative was developed by Caltrans. In 1998 the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) used the Caltrans exemption as a model for their own native wildflower banking system, viewed by the FHWA as a commitment to establish and/or protect more native wildflowers than the U.S.C. 319(b) landscaping requirement. Their example demonstrates the flexibility of FHWA. Furthermore, as Wisconsin's FHWA Division Administrator wrote upon signing the agreement, "the new program should lend great support to WisDOT's strategic landscaping objectives including: safety enhancement, effective erosion control, reduction in the use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, and reduction of overall roadside vegetation maintenance costs." The WisDOT programmatic waiver is possible when certain stipulated conditions are met (shown below). This agreement may be handled through each State's FHWA Division Office.

  1. Native wildflowers shall be used on Federal-aid highway planting projects as required by existing Federal law wherever it is practical, appropriate, and cost effective.

  2. WisDOT shall establish a fund to which Federal-aid highway planting project moneys may be deposited or combined for use with other native wildflower plantings to achieve larger scale plantings.

  3. WisDOT shall use an established method to identify a number of high-quality sites on Federal-aid highway rights-of-way in the State to preserve or establish native vegetation that will serve as native wildflower banking areas. The banking sites shall be developed in sufficient area to compensate for the locations where wildflower plantings are found to be inappropriate.

  4. WisDOT shall develop a policy and guidance regarding the use and preservation of native wildflowers for use by landscape (and maintenance) staff that reflects the terms and conditions of this agreement.

  5. WisDOT may determine that it is inappropriate to use native wildflowers where any of the following conditions exist:

    1. Where the adjacent urban landscape demands a compatible formal planting design inconsistent wily the use of native wildflowers,
    2. Where the required native wildflowers would result in poor planting design, regardless of adjacent landscape, or
    3. Where cultural practices necessary to sustain the rest of the planting would lead to the decline of the native wildflowers.
  6. WisDOT shall determine that it is inappropriate to use non-native wildflowers whenever such species are perceived as a threat to the genetic integrity of similar native species in the region or whenever such species are considered invasive to natural areas, or competitive with native plantings.

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Questions and feedback should be directed to Deirdre Remley (deirdre.remley@dot.gov, 202-366-0524).

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