Editor, The Messenger;
I write to respond to an editorial by John Knouse published on July 17.
I appreciate his complements about the condition of Ohio’s roads. That is made possible by our hard-working employees carefully managing the valuable resources entrusted to us by taxpayers. ODOT prioritizes work from the center of the road out, for example: pavement, culverts, drainage, signs and lighting first, then guardrail, then mowing and tree-trimming. From November through April, our first priority is snow and ice control. That leaves five short months for ODOT to focus on 49,000 lane-miles of highway.
I also appreciate his passion for plant life in our great state, a passion that we share. However, Ohio is a geographically and ecologically diverse state and a one-size-fits-all solution to vegetation management is unrealistic. Phragmites are a problem along the Lake Erie shoreline, woody vegetation is a problem in eastern Ohio, Johnson grass is a problem in southern Ohio, southeastern Ohio battles honeysuckle and Autumn olive, to name a few. ODOT’s local offices have been hard at work trying new herbicides and modifying and purchasing new spray equipment to target the specific noxious and invasive weeds in their local area.
ODOT has indeed changed its mowing practices. We enrolled in the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for the Monarch Butterfly on Energy and Transportation Lands and agreed to reduce mowing on 80,000 acres of ODOT right of way for the life of the 50-year agreement. We were aware when we instituted the change that all the noxious and invasive species that had been suppressed by years of routine mowing would emerge. We have a plan in place to identify stands of noxious and invasive weeds larger than 200 square feet and treat them with targeted herbicide based on plant biology, but change doesn’t happen overnight.
Ohio is leading the nation in conservation practices to benefit pollinators and the Monarch butterfly. While we won’t always get it right, we do appreciate constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement.
Administrator of the Highway Beautification and Pollinator Habitat Program