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Environmental program earns KDOT, state partner's national recognition

Jan. 5, 2006 ( 06-001)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

News Contact: Stan Whitley, (785) 296-3585

Environmental program earns KDOT, state partner's national recognition

An environmental program designed to preserve roadside prairies in Kansas has received national recognition from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The Kansas Prairie Ecosystem Restoration, Education, and Conservation Initiative program was recently recognized by the FHWA as an Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative. The program between the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and other state agencies provides a joint partnership that is helping to protect and preserve the natural environment in Kansas.

Kansas is home to three endangered ecosystems which include tall, mixed, and short-grass prairies. In the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas, tall grass species dominate; in central Kansas a mixture of tall and short grass prairie species dominate; and in the High Plains of western Kansas, short grass species dominate.

The vegetation and landscape within each ecosystem provide unique challenges for restoration, maintenance and conservation programs for KDOT. The prairie ecosystem initiative is helping restore and preserve portions of these ecosystems adjacent to Kansas's roadways, while educating the public on the importance of these diminishing resources.

The initiative was enacted in February 2004 in cooperation with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Kansas Department Agriculture, and the Audubon Society of Kansas. At the inception of the initiative, new seed mixes and erosion control practices were developed for KDOT to more closely represent and protect vegetation found in that particular
region during restoration processes and best suit the habitat needs of area wildlife.

With over 650,000 acres of right of way along Kansas roadways, KDOT plays a major role in conservation practices to promote endangered species, preserve wetland areas and ensure native ecosystems are not impacted by road construction.

In order to preserve the existing vegetation and promote vegetation establishment, KDOT has implemented a new mowing policy as part of its roadway maintenance program. The policy designates mowing heights and times to ensure vegetation is mowed on a schedule to enhance plant growth and protect wildlife habitat.

Besides the extensive restoration and conservation programs within the initiative, a public outreach and education program has been undertaken. As part of the public outreach and education program, KDOT in partnership with the Kansas Biological Survey, Audubon of Kansas, Kansas Turnpike Authority, and the Kansas Wildflower Society has developed a wildflower handout brochure.

KDOT also partnered with Kansas Public Television, Kansas Department of Commerce and the Kansas Historical Society to put information kiosks at significant landmarks as part of a public education and information program. An information video also was developed that is available to the public and was aired on public television’s widely viewed program, “Sunflower Journeys.”

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