Partnering to conserve the monarch butterfly migration

The I-35 Monarch Highway

Branded as the "Monarch Highway," this is an initiative launched in 2015 to create a multi-state partnership bringing together state transportation agencies and other partners along Interstate-35 (I-35) to catalyze conservation actions along the corridor and its neighboring communities that enhance habitat and engage people. The I-35 corridor, or the "Monarch Highway," runs along the central flyway of the monarch migration in the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

This project aims to promote awareness of monarchs and other pollinators and assist individual state efforts to enhance vegetation management practices. The project hopes to serve as a national model for native pollinator habitat restoration along transportation byways through private sector and philanthropic enhancement of state and local activities. This idea builds upon the past success of the 1995 Prairie Passage Route Partnership formed by the state departments of transportation along I-35. A number of these states remain national leaders in roadside integrated vegetation management and prairie restoration. Reinvigorating the focus on the I-35 corridor will facilitate concentrated regional coordination and action to make a visible difference in working landscapes and communities along the corridor.

The idea for a "Monarch Highway" partnership came from a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators released in 2015. The strategy called for the idea of a "Monarch Highway" along I-35 and directed the U.S. Department of Transportation to work with state departments of transportation to promote pollinator-friendly practices and corridors. Later in 2015, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and U.S. Department of Transportation organized a summit of state transportation leaders to advance regional and statewide efforts to promote and improve pollinator habitats on transportation rights-of-way, including the "Monarch Highway."

In May 2016, the six states along I-35 signed an agreement establishing I-35 as the "Monarch Highway" and furthering their commitment to leverage transportation rights-of-ways for monarch and pollinator habitat while also developing a public outreach and awareness effort. The memorandum of agreement was signed during the AASHTO Board of Directors meeting in Des Moines. Signatories included FHWA Administrator Greg Nadeau and senior executives from Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The agreement establishes "a cooperative and coordinated effort to establish best practices and promote public awareness of the monarch butterfly and other pollinator conservation." The parties also will work together to develop a unified branding for I-35, informally naming it the "Monarch Highway."

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