Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife


To me, in sum, beautification means our total concern for the physical and human quality we pass on to our children and the future.

Mrs. Lyndon Johnson, 1993

Wildflowers and the Federal-Aid Highway Program:

Wildflowers and other native plants provide visual character that enhances the natural scenic beauty of our nation's landscape. The growing concern for our natural heritage has generated an increasing interest in their restoration, preservation, and appreciation.

Our nation's highways provide access to the splendors of nature as well as offer opportunities for natural beauty within their rights-of-way. Under the program provisions of "Operation Wildflower" and the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987 (STURAA), native wildflowers are being planted in the rights-of-way to add natural character to the highway environment. These programs are the framework of all State Department of Transportation wildflower programs.

The Operation Wildflower program, initiated in December 1973, is a volunteer cooperative program between the National Council of State Garden Clubs, Inc., the State highway agencies, and the Federal Highway Administration. Under this program, a garden club may pay for or furnish wildflower seeds of seedlings to a State highway agency for planting within the highway right-of-way. The highway agency has the responsibility for final determination of the appropriate location for, the installation and management of the wildflowers. Federal-aid highway funds are available for participation in the costs of planting the wildflowers.

The STURAA became effective on April 1987. It contains a mandatory requirement that native wildflower seeds or seedlings be planted as part of landscaping projects undertaken on the Federal-aid highway system. At least one-quarter of one percent of the funds expended for a landscaping project must be used to plant native wildflowers (and grasses) on that project. A landscaping project involves any action taken as part of a highway construction project or as a separate action to enhance the esthetics of a highway through placement of plant material consistent with a landscape design.

Wildflowers are being grown and protected on highway roadsides under other program initiatives instituted by States. The reduced mowing policies of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota allow the natural establishment of wildflowers and protection of natural remnants. Additionally, native wildflowers and grasses are being customarily included in plantings undertaken as part of erosion control and vegetation management methods. They are also being planted under States' continuing efforts like Adopt-a-Highway, Roadsides-for-Wildlife, and ISTEA enhancement projects. Watch for wildflowers on your next summer Sunday afternoon drive.

Role of the Federal Highway Administration:

The Federal Highway Administration oversees State programs on interstate and State highways that use federal funds. We also act as a technical resource and information clearinghouse for these programs. Each State's program is unique. Therefore the highway traveler will view different interpretations of STURAA and Operation Wildlfower in each State. Within each State, natural regions vary and so do the roadside solutions used.

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

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