Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 5, 2016

Bee-Friendly Highway Funding?


(Matthias Hiekel/AFP/Getty Images)

What does highway funding have to do with your blueberry smoothie?

Simple: More roadside habitat for honeybees could mean better pollination for berries, melons, and other crops. In a Dear Colleague letter last week Rep. Alcee Hastings, D- Fla., and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., urged colleagues to “BEE a Part of the Solution!” — by co-sponsoring their bill — the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment (BEE) Act — that would allow states to use federal highway maintenance funds to create highway habitats for honeybees.

The two men, co-chairmen of the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus, said the bill would help states “incorporate integrated vegetation management (IVM) practices on 17 million acres of right-of-ways along America’s highways.”

IVM includes “reduced mowing and replacing invasive plant species with native forbs and grasses” that would attract bees.

Honeybee pollination is estimated to be worth $12 billion a year to U.S. agricultural production, according to a Cornell University study cited by an April report by the Congressional Research Service. But declines in honeybee colonies – due in part to colony collapse disorder, the rapid disappearance of most of the adult bees in a colony — have caused alarm in the beekeeping and agriculture industries.

Hastings spokesman Evan Polisar said states already receive federal funding for mowing the grassy areas along the highway rights of way. The Hastings-Denham legislation would allow state transportation departments to use some of that money for honeybee habitats.

“Instead of mowing all the time, states can mow less or plant native plants that require less maintenance. Because of this, we actually expect the bill to save money, not cost money,” he said.

A group called The Pollinator Partnership, which is backing the legislation, said on its website that it is “important to act quickly, as transportation reauthorization legislation appears to be on a fast track in Congress. The goal is to get an amendment based on the Highways BEE Act in that important legislation.”

Comments (4)

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  1. mokyfellow

    June 16, 2014
    1:22 p.m.

    How about the owners of the blueberry bushes with the state’s permission plant the necessary flowers on the right-of-ways? This should NOT be a cost to the state or federal governments.

  2. RMax304823

    June 16, 2014
    4:33 p.m.

    Tax payers are already paying for maintenance. How much more would it cost to plant shrubbery of commercial value instead of grass and trees? And, after all, with fewer bees, the price of honey (and everything else that bees pollinated) goes up and the consumer pays more for it. Besides, what’s more pleasant to drive through — a parkway or a turnpike? Of course the companies that benefit should share in the expense — a loophole here, a loophole there, a bit less graft at the state house. But in the end, the proposal benefits everyone.

  3. Doris Kelsey

    June 16, 2014
    11:05 p.m.

    What he Hail were they doing planting non-native plants to begin with? Citidiots! Now their crap has spread to our fields and they want to fine us for having weeds!!

  4. Katness Everdean

    June 17, 2014
    1:43 p.m.

    To preserve morality, liberty, and prosperity, the leaden threads of centralized power must be confined to the fewest possible seams.

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