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DNR offers financial assistance for roadside prairie plantings

Landowners with property adjacent to rural roads who are asked to replant vegetation in the right-of-way are encouraged to use native prairie grasses and wildflowers, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

"Although native prairie is initially more expensive than brome grass, prairie provides benefits for wildlife and watersheds," said Carmelita Nelson, Roadsides for Wildlife Program coordinator for the DNR. "Prairie plants do more to improve water quality, help anchor the soil, provide habitat for pollinators and birds, sequester carbon, and can be harvested for hay or cellulosic biofuel."

The DNR Roadsides for Wildlife Program offers landowners native prairie seeding grants. In select counties, the DNR's Working Lands Program has funds through local soil and water conservation districts.

Minnesota law prohibits landowners from fencing, plowing, planting row crops, or dumping rocks and other debris in road right-of-ways.

"The law protects the safety of motorists, enhances water quality, provides good drainage and allows for proper maintenance of the right-of-ways," said Paul Walvatne, roadside vegetation supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT).

Safety is an important factor in roadside vegetation. Row crops too close to roads limit visibility for those entering the roads and for highway drivers looking for deer or oncoming traffic. Rocks and debris in roadsides are dangerous for highway workers and their equipment, and are a potential hazard for errant vehicles that need a safe recovery zone in the road ditch.

All violations are subject to misdemeanor prosecution under statewide law. If row crops are planted within the rights-of-way, the local road authority may take action to remove the crops.