Rights-of-way (ROWs), roadsides, and other neglected but importantly ubiquitous landscape features offer unique potential with regards to Monarch and pollinator conservation. These areas comprise roughly 12 million acres nationwide. The expansive ROW networks linking infrastructure and destination consumer markets present complicated conservation challenges (e.g., habitat fragmentation, water quality), but perhaps, also, opportunity.
Vegetation management within ROWs is required to maintain non-woody vegetation by potential safety hazards posed by plants that are too tall or have too deep root systems. Pollinator habitat is found in these non-wooded areas, making the land a good possibility for permanent pollinator habitat. Approaches for ROWs vegetation management are diverse, and consequences for monarch and pollinator conservation range from representing ecological traps with severe negative implications to fostering expansive and beneficial vegetative communities critical to conservation success.
The Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative is in the second year of a project to study the impacts of these varying management practices in order to inform how utilities can take advantage of this important opportunity to support monarch and pollinator conservation on their wide ranging lands.