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This article, written by Missouri Department of Transportation Roadside Management Specialist Stacy Armstrong, was published on the Federal Highway Administration’s Greener Roadsides page.
By Stacy Armstrong, (573) 751-8641
Prairie passage-related projects in Missouri are as diverse as our roadsides and they help promote awareness of our natural and cultural resources. Here is a sampling.
Inventory: The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) identified the primary Prairie Passage corridor in Missouri as Interstate 35 from the Iowa border to Kansas City with a secondary corridor, U.S. Highway 71 south to Joplin. Various options for alternative routes and side trips are being considered. The first step after the Prairie Passage partnership began was to identify area remnant prairies. Next, through the support of the Federal Highway Administration, existing vegetation was inventoried. Noted were noxious weeds, tree and shrub cover, legumes, wildflowers and potential planting sites. As expected, few native plant communities remain along Interstate 35.
Seed Plots: MoDOT with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), Missouri Department of Corrections, and the Nature Conservancy joined in an effort to increase the availability of native Missouri wildflower seed in northwest Missouri. Wildflower seed was collected from area prairies and grown into plugs. The plugs were then transplanted to seed production plots on Interstate 35 near Bethany The seed will be harvested and shared by agencies to replant prairies. Not only will the agencies benefit from the increased seed supply, but the traveling public will be able to enjoy the colorful roadsides.
Contractor Training: Grow Native!, a MDC program encourages the use of native flora and helps Missouri native plant growers market their products. In cooperation MoDOT sponsored a two-day roadside contractor training. More than 80 contractors, seed producers and native plant enthusiasts learned about State contracting procedures, native plant establishment an how to develop a native plant contracting business. A trade show featured the latest equipment, products and services available. Attendees shared tales of success and failure.
Conversion Project: Recently, Prairie Passage in Missouri took a huge leap forward thanks to a partnership with MDC. One of MDC’s goals is to increase the diversity of Missouri vegetation by .. restoring native plant communities. Through the use of Transportation Enhancement funds, with MDC providing a 20 percent match, selected non-native vegetation areas will be converted to native vegetation to beautify, control erosion, and reduce invasive plants. Greater consideration was given to areas close to Prairie Passage. The future of Prairie Passage looks bright as additional resources become available.