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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Setting regional ecological goals for roadside management


Native plant advocacy groups have advocated the concept of “natural roadside management”. These groups typically press state departments of transportation (DOTs) to incorporate this concept into their roadside management. As a result, many DOTs have since increased emphasis on the use of native plants. Justification for the emphasis on native plants in the roadside typically focuses on the assumed lower maintenance requirements and their hardiness. Experience in Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) roadsides indicates these assumptions are either false or must be carefully qualified. Because most native plant advocates speak from a specific area of concern such as wildflowers, prairies, or simply the broad category of native plants, it is often difficult for these advocates and roadside managers to understand each other. This derives from the manager and advocate having an incomplete understanding of each other’s perspective, language, and goals. This paper proposes that more effort needs to be made towards creating measurable connections to regional ecological issues, and then expressing those in terms of accomplishable tasks. Looking outside the right-of-way is the best way to connect to meaningful ecological issues. A three-stage process is proposed that may be used to develop roadside projects that have an ecological focus. These stages are: 1) investigating feasibility, 2) formulating a specific goal, and 3) developing program tasks. The process stresses a connection to the culture and community of the region, as well as to other agencies and organizations.

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