Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

May 26, 2016

Orange barrels on a highway

Minnesota among six states collaborating to enhance pollinator habitat along Interstate 35

ST. PAUL, MINN. — Minnesota is among six state departments of transportation and the Federal Highway Administration that today signed a memorandum of agreement that will improve pollinator habitat along Interstate 35, a key migratory corridor for Monarch butterflies.

According to a news release by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Obama Administration last year identified the I-35 corridor as a route on which land along the interstate could be developed to increase plants that would provide refuge and food for monarch butterflies and other critically important pollinating insects.

"State roadways have acres and acres of habitat ideal for pollinators," said MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle. "We should strive to build awareness of pollinator needs along the Interstate 35 corridor. With some careful planning, we can ensure that Monarch butterflies and other creatures that pollinate are able to thrive, which ultimately benefits our food sources and us."

The memorandum of agreement was signed during the AASHTO Board of Directors meeting in Des Moines. Signatories included FHWA Administrator Greg Nadeau and senior executives from Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, according to the AASHTO release.

The agreement establishes "a cooperative and coordinated effort to establish best practices and promote public awareness of the monarch butterfly and other pollinator conservation." The parties also will work together to develop a unified branding for I-35, informally naming it the "Monarch Highway."

Monarch butterflies born in late summer or early fall migrate south to winter in Mexico. In the spring, the butterflies return to the southern U.S. and lay eggs. Successive generations of Monarchs continue moving north, which takes them along the I-35 corridor and finally into Canada. These Monarchs begin the cycle over again by completing a 2,000 mile trek back to Mexico.

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