The following item is written by Tom Conroy from the Department of Natural Resources. . .
Roadsides are more than just ditches
“He grew up in the country. I grew up in town. He went off to college and then to serve in the Army. I went off to college and then to serve in the Army. He returned to the farm. I returned to town. Now and then I’d drive out to visit him at his farm. Much of the enjoyment of these visits came from the good-natured ribbing we’d engage in. It would invariably begin when he’d greet me with a “Ho, ho, ho, well look who’s here! The DNR, here to teach me how to farm!” I would counter with some comment about his inability to be taught anything. It’s good when people with different viewpoints are able to kid each other without becoming oh so serious and defensive. Life is more interesting because we don’t all think alike. As Mark Twain stated, “A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries.”
Take, for instance, the matter of roadside ditches. To mow or not to mow, that is the question. In what is referred to as the “pheasant range” in Minnesota, there are 525,000 acres of roadsides. The pheasant is but one of some 40 bird species that use roadsides for nesting. Roadsides, if left undisturbed until after August 1, can provide tremendous nesting habitat for these bird species. Undisturbed ditches planted to native prairie grasses and flowers also provide water quality benefits, increase water filtration, and provide long-term maintenance savings. Private landowners may mow or hay their own roadsides if they own fee title. Many do. Ditches are also disturbed by off-road vehicle traffic. The upshot is that a preponderance of 525,000 acres of roadside ditches is of little use to grassland birds, provides no water quality benefits, costs more to maintain, and decreases water filtration.
Landowners hay ditches to sell the hay or to feed to their livestock. Others mow ditches because they believe it enhances the appearance of their property. (As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.) But as more landowners come to realize the benefits that can come from not haying or mowing until after August 1, more are choosing to leave those ditches undisturbed. The DNR Roadsides for Wildlife Program can reimburse landowners and road authorities up to 75% of the cost of eligible native prairie seed, with a maximum cost-share rate of $300 per acre.
Additional information can be obtained from the following sources: Â· For Roadside for Wildlife Information, plans, presentations, training and legal mandates, contact Carmelita.Nelson@dnr.state.mn.us (651-259-5014). Â· For cost-share projects, prairie planting, prescribed burning, and equipment coordination, contact Pete.Schaefer@dnr.state.mn.us (507-225-3572). Â· For brochures, free roadside signs, annual youth poster contest, and nest box information, contact Larinda.Burg@dnr.state.mn.us (507-359-6035). Many years have passed since we were discharged from the Army, he returning to the farm, me to town. I seldom get back to his area anymore and much has changed over the years. For one thing, I admit there is a lot about farming that I don’t understand. And he no longer mows his ditches.”