Integrated vegetation management practices allow for natural germination of milkweed and other plants that benefit pollinators. There are 12 million acres of utility rights-of-way in the United States.
Integrated vegetation management practices allow for natural germination of milkweed and other plants that benefit pollinators. There are 12 million acres of utility rights-of-way in the United States.

Bayer CropScience LP (Bayer) is investing more than $100,000 in a project with Integrated Vegetation Management Partners, Inc., (IVM Partners) designed to improve and expand pollinator and wildlife habitats on public rights-of-way through integrated vegetation management.

IVM Partners, a nonprofit organization that is a liaison for industry, agency and conservation, develops programs and provides education on vegetation management and conservation best practices. The organization will work with Bayer on case study sites managed by utility or transportation rights-of-way.

The project aims to improve habitats for pollinators, birds and other wildlife in upland and wetland ecosystems in sites across eight states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Oregon, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

“Bayer’s investment in this project will bring together efforts to improve pollinator and wildlife habitat, safety and aesthetics on utility and highway rights-of-way,” said Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP. “Our collaboration with IVM Partners is a model for how public-private partnerships can benefit the environment through research and implementation of best practices.”

Implementing integrated vegetation management practices includes: reducing or eliminating mowing, applying selective herbicides to encourage low-growing vegetation, controlling invasive and undesirable plant species, protecting watersheds, optimizing habitat for pollinators and other wildlife, reducing carbon footprint, and reducing overall costs.

“With funding from Bayer, we will be able to expand integrated vegetation management research on diverse ecosystems across the country that correspond to migration routes of birds and Monarchs (butterflies) and increase and improve habitats for pollinators, birds and other wildlife,” said Rick Johnstone, president and founder of IVM Partners. “These sites can be used to educate utilities, agencies and the public on how we can partner using IVM best practices to control invasive plants, reduce erosion and sedimentation of waterways, and lower the risk of wildfires.”

It was explained that Integrated vegetation management encourages pollinator diversity because native prairie and meadow habitats are suppressed by weed trees and invasive plants. Selective herbicide use is necessary to remove these plants and allow milkweed, asters and wildflowers to grow and provide nectar and pollen for pollinators, in addition to providing prime areas for bobwhite quail, turkey and other wildlife. Ravines and rights-of-way borders provide additional nesting and forage sites when mountain laurel, blackberry, blueberry, viburnum and other shrubs are retained.

As an example provided by IVM Partners is where trees and invasive plants in some areas were treated with selective herbicides, rare orchids that have been dormant for years are springing to life. As open meadow and prairie ecosystems are restored, so is native plant life and wildlife habitat with no additional planting required. Within three years, without the need for routine mowing, one-third of the maintenance budget may be saved.

“This partnership demonstrates our commitment to proper stewardship of Bayer herbicides used for vegetation management,” said David Spak, a Bayer product development manager. The project is a collaborative effort between Bayer’s Crop business, its Bayer Bee Care, and its Vegetation Management business and IVM Partners.

Bayer’s collaboration with IVM Partners is just one example of its commitment to improve pollinator health and to increase forage for honey bees and other pollinators. Earlier this year, Bayer launched Feed a Bee, which has a goal of growing 50 million flowers and providing additional forage acreage for honey bees in 2015. Bayer’s bee health initiatives information is at http://beehealth.bayer.us.