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Rotary Club, VDOT Working To Increase Pollinators Here

Covington, VA (May 10, 2021) - In the early spring, Paul Linkenhoker, President of the Covington-Hot Springs Rotary Club, and Bill Wilson, Chairman of the club’s environmental committee, met with VDOT representatives to discuss our desire to work with VDOT and assist with a project to increase pollinator habitats along the Interstate 64 corridor in Alleghany County. Brian Waymack, VDOT State Roadside Vegetation Manager, and Stacey Moulds, VDOT Pollinator Habitat Coordinator, met at the Longdale Eastbound Truck Stop Rest Area to begin the discussion. The result is a partnership endorsed by the club with VDOT to establish a pollinator habitat at Longdale. An initial meeting to kickoff the site marking at the rest area will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 13. The actual preparation of the planting plots will take place in the fall.

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Release from the VDOT – Stacey Moulds, VDOT Pollinator Habitat Coordinator

With over 55,000 miles of state-maintained roads in addition to facilities such as park & rides and safety rest areas - VDOT facilities such as the Longdale Furnace Eastbound Truck Stop, located in Alleghany County - have a unique opportunity to make a positive impact by providing valuable habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

In recent years, there has been a significant decline in pollinators, including honeybees, native bees, butterflies as well as many other pollinating insects and birds. The iconic monarch butterfly was listed this past December 2020 as a candidate for inclusion under the Endangered Species Act. The loss of pollinators can have profound implications for agriculture and food production as well as the overall health of our farms, forests, meadows, and wetlands. Each of these sustain abundant populations of wildlife and fish and provide opportunities for economic development and recreation. VDOT began its Pollinator Habitat Program in 2014 in an attempt to both supplement pollinator habitat loss and respond to the 2014 National Pollinator Health Strategy, which called on State DOTs to promote pollinator-friendly practices and to increase pollinator habitat along roadways. The program began by planting four 900 square foot pollinator habitat gardens on VDOT Park and Rides and Rest Areas within the Northern Virginia District. The number of pollinator gardens continues to grow with a focus at safety rest areas, park-and-ride lots and on other VDOT owned parcels. Twenty- three (23) locations have been installed to date.

In addition to the pollinator gardens, VDOT has revised its mowing best practices to reduce its mowing along many of its roadsides, where possible, in order to protect and supplement habitat corridors. Until recently, roadsides have not been recognized as potential wildlife habitat, but with increasing land development coupled with intensifying land use practices, these areas have become critically important for wildlife and can often have much greater plant diversity than their surrounding lands.

Starting this spring, VDOT is teaming up with the Covington-Hot Springs Rotary Club of the Alleghany Highlands to create valuable pollinator habitat at the Longdale Furnace Eastbound Truck Stop. Approximately 3.2 acres of current lawn located within the 14-acre facility will cease to be mowed, except once in the fall, after the plants have stopped growing. This reduction in mowing will ultimately allow managed lawn areas to naturally develop into a pollinator habitat. Some maintenance will still be required to selectively remove unwanted tree and shrub saplings as well as invasive herbaceous species that continue to germinate following years of managing this area as a lawn. Within a few years, however, seeds of native flowering plants and grasses that remain viable in the seed bank should grow and begin to outcompete the turf plants, as has been the case with Virginia’s roadsides where mowing has been reduced to an annual cutback. Additionally, this fall, two 1,000-square foot pollinator gardens will be planted adjacent to the sidewalk leading from the truck parking lot to the rest area facilities. Plants will be native to the region and will provide nectar pollen and/or habitat for pollinators. The Rotary Club will assist VDOT by providing much needed outreach and education to their local community to explain the purpose of the reduction in mowing. Additionally, they will recruit interested volunteers to assist with planting and on-going maintenance of the fall - planted pollinator gardens.


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