Roadside Management

About

In 2008, KNPS created a roadside management position paper supporting the replacement of non-native vegetation with native grasses and wildflowers, and the sound ecological management of existing native roadside vegetation. Methods to accomplish this include reduced mowing, replacing non-native roadside vegetation with native grasses & wildflowers, and controlling noxious weeds. These practices should be implemented on Federal, State, County, and Township roadways by roadway maintenance workers and individual landowners with property fronting roadways.

Basic Blueprint

It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel to restore Kansas roadsides. The basic blueprint already exists in the Roadside Use of Native Plants guidelines recommended by the Federal Highway Administration and adopted by several states. This plan places special emphasis upon use of appropriate native plants on roadsides, while ensuring that roadsides are safe and attractive.

Other State Roadside Management Plans

Iowa has an extensive management plan.

Nebraska has a statewide plan

Recommended Planning

  1. Survey Kansas roadsides to determine what steps will be needed to restore each area to attractive stands of regionally appropriate native grasses and forbs. Roadsides should be classified as:
    1. areas that are already native and diverse and only need to be maintained appropriately,
    2. areas that are completely or mostly non-native and need to be converted to native,
    3. new construction areas that require seeding, and
    4. showcase areas (such as rest areas and cloverleaf’s) that should be planted to especially showy displays.
  2. Prepare a plan for the restoration of roadsides, complete with priorities, restoration schedule, and a budget.
  3. Restore, as scheduled, each non-native, newly constructed, and showcase site for several years until native grasses and forbs are established on that site.

Recommended Maintenance Policy

  1. Mow, as needed, a 15-foot “clear zone” on either side of the roadway to optimize safety. This 6-inch cut should be expanded at intersections and inside curves to provide clear lines of sight.
  2. Mow or burn the remaining right-of-way only when necessary to control undesired woody invaders, and no more often than every third year. This seldom disturbed “prairie zone” should extend from the clear zone to the fence row.
  3. Mow or burn the “prairie zone” before April 15 (to protect nesting birds) or after November 1 (following the fall display and to encourage seed propagation). Avoid, where possible, mowing or burning the “prairie zone” on both sides of a highway in the same year.
  4. Treat noxious and invasive plants with spot applications of an appropriate herbicide when necessary. Never broadcast herbicides that indiscriminately kill all forbs.
  5. Do not seed any right-of-way area with exotic, non-native plants. The KNPS Native Seed Program can recommend sources of native seed collected from local ecotypes and offers collecting guidelines that help ensure healthy native plant populations.
  6. Never fertilize established roadside vegetation.

Benefits to Sound Roadside Management

An integrated roadside management plan provides these benefits.

  • beautifies roadsides by providing color & texture at all seasons
  • provides drought resistant vegetation
  • reduces surface runoff and erosion by improving infiltration
  • provides low maintenance weed control
  • provides lower cost roadside management by reducing mowing
  • reduces snow drifting & glare from snow
  • enhances wildlife habitat for insects, reptiles/amphibians, birds, mammals
  • preserves our natural heritage

Who to Contact

  • Kansas Department of Transportation is responsible for State & Federal Highways
  • Kansas Turnpike Authority is responsible for the Kansas Turnpike
  • Local County
  • Local Township
  • Local Noxious Weed Department

Goals

  • Educate the public of the many benefits of native prairie roadside vegetation
  • Educate road workers on noxious weed identification and control instead of blanket herbicide treatment