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Remarks by Gregory Nadeau, Administrator, FHWA

Summit on Restoring the Nation's Pollinator Habitat

Washington, DC

Friday, December 4, 2015 at 8:30 AM

Good morning, everyone.

I hope everyone enjoyed their breakfast this morning. We all love to eat – I know I do!

But did you know that every THIRD bite of food on our plates is there thanks to the work of pollinators?

The health of our bee and butterfly population is truly an issue that impacts everyone – and the transportation community is playing an important role in keeping them healthy and thriving.

There are people who rarely use our roads, don’t fly, never take the train.

But everyone eats – making this is a transportation issue with a rare appeal across the board.

And so I appreciate this summit bringing so many people together to highlight the threat that pollinators are facing and the important work that transportation agencies are doing to turn our roadways into pollinator-friendly habitats.

This work will soon be the law of the land.

The conference report on the new transportation bill is moving through the House and Senate, and we’re hoping it will be on its way to the President soon for his signature.

The bill, known as the FAST Act, has some important language on the health and well-being of pollinator habitat.

It commits DOT to playing a strong role encouraging states to develop roadside habitat for honey bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators so they’ll have way stations for their annual migration.

It’s good to see that bees and butterflies enjoy such broad bi-partisan support!

This issue really got a jump start with a Presidential Memorandum last year directing DOT and FHWA to work with the states to increase pollinator habitats along our roadways.

I’m proud to say that even before the Memorandum – and certainly since – FHWA has played an active role in developing resources our state and local partners can use in this effort.

I know you heard a presentation yesterday from our Western Federal Lands Highway division, which has been very active in this area for a number of years.

They’re working with partners like the Forest Service to make re-vegetation a key part of project development – from project planning to management and maintenance.

They’re focusing on native plants that need less maintenance.

And they’re working to include pollinator-friendly plants in that effort.

They’ve also created a manual to serve as a reference guide for the other Federal Lands Highway divisions.

We’re very proud of the work they’re doing.

I’ve been in contact with many state CEOs, especially those along the I-35 corridor, and there’s tremendous interest by the states in playing a positive role.

FHWA supports the efforts of the I-35 states that choose to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding that commits them to creating a “Monarch Highway.”

I’m also encouraged that representatives from more than two dozen states are attending this summit, including Commissioner Charles Zelle from Minnesota.

Charles will be leading an important discussion later this morning about efforts along the I-35 Corridor.

All across the country, states have really stepped up to find and implement better ways to improve habitat in their rights-of-way.

We’re grateful for their efforts and for their willingness to come here and share what they’ve learned.

As we go forward, it’s important that we keep communicating and sharing information.

I’ll be sending a memo to our FHWA Division Administrators highlighting our support for pollinator habitat, and I’ll be urging them to continue working with our state partners on this important issue.

My memo will include a list of the federal funding and technical resources that are available.

I’m also going to bring the DAs together at a workshop or teleconference next year to discuss steps we can take to make progress on this issue – including advancing ideas that come from this Summit.

Communication is a two-way street, so we’re also asking states to let us know what they’re doing, what’s working, what’s not, and what they need so they can continue supporting pollinator habitats.

We know states have a lot on their plates and there are a lot of demands on their resources.

And so we’re looking to find ways to support pollinator habitat without having a negative impact on the bottom line.

This doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.

In fact, because there’s less mowing or maintenance involved, pollinator habitat can actually be a cost-saver compared to grass.

Some states only have to make minor changes to their operations – at little or no cost – and get great results.

Others have met some challenges.

We want to hear all the stories so we can better serve our partners and develop tools that help them succeed.

FHWA is learning right alongside you.

One of our colleagues at the Turner Fairbank Highway Research Center – across the river in Virginia – is an amateur bee–keeper.

He’s set up some hives at Turner Fairbank.

I know Bruce Rodan visited there recently, and I think he even got some honey.

We have a vegetable garden there that employees tend on their own time and at their own expense.

So we have our own little eco–system!

We’ve also taken a couple of sections of land at Turner Fairbank and started to replace the grass with native Virginia plants.
This helps reduce water run–off, and we hope it will serve as a way-station for butterflies as they make their way along the East Coast.

I’m very excited about this issue – partly because it’s so unique.

It’s not something people normally think about when they think about transportation.

But it’s an area where transportation is playing a positive role to turn roadsides into habitats and help put food on America’s tables.

Thank you very much!

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