Tuesday, 1 Jul 2003

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa

It’s time to send a letter out to the county roadside managers reminding them that the deadline for Living Roadway Trust Fund grant applications is coming up. When the Iowa legislature created the Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management (IRVM) program, they backed it up with something called the Living Roadway Trust Fund (LRTF). This has been the lifeblood of IRVM.

Steve Holland administers this fund for Iowa Department of Transportation. Steve’s judicious yet responsive style of managing the fund energizes the whole program. When innovative roadside managers come up with ideas that will benefit their IRVM program — a new piece of seeding or mulching equipment, GIS/GPS equipment, a research project, or outreach publications — they can apply to LRTF. Not every application can be funded, but the chance to obtain this support for your county and realize your own ideas encourages county participation and helps keep good people in the program.

LRTF receives on average about $600,000 per year. The money comes from road-use tax funds, the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection fund, and utility right-of-way fees. This is not a lot of money considering it gets divided between state, city, and county projects and our office at the university as well. But it’s real and has been there pretty consistently over the years. Spent wisely by Steve and his advisory committee, it makes a huge difference.

This time of year, besides spraying Canada thistles, most county roadside managers are still doing some roadside native seeding projects. They are using a native grass drill or hydro-seeder funded largely or entirely by LRTF. They are putting down a mix of native forbs and grasses that might cost from $150 to $800 per acre, depending on the diversity and richness of the mix. The seed is purchased with either LRTF funds or, more recently, Transportation Enhancement funds leveraged by LRTF money. This seed might be stored in a mouse-proof, air-conditioned storage room funded by LRTF.

LRTF’s effect goes on and on. Roadside Managers over the years have received a library of books on native plant identification, propagation, and restoration paid for by LRTF. They have attended LRTF-funded conferences and workshops where they get to hear from experts in the field. And LRTF has funded restoration research. Thanks in part to LRTF, Iowa now has a small army of well-equipped, educated, and experienced prairie restorationists.

It may have come largely from their participation in IRVM, but the benefits to each county go well beyond roadsides. County roadside managers often serve as habitat chairs for local Pheasants Forever chapters. They give talks to local groups and classrooms. And they help plant many acres of erodible land to prairie for the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program.

Iowa Department of Transportation deserves a lot of credit for this very “green” effect they have had on the whole state.

Next: Where do you get all that native seed?