An open letter

I started the Pollinator Pathway ten years ago. It has clearly influenced projects such as the one below, but there’s a lot being lost in translation. I wrote an open letter about it.

-Sarah Bergmann

From: Sarah Bergmann
Date: Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Subject: [Pollinator] Colorado’s designated Interstate 76 as a “Pollinator Highway”


I’m Sarah Bergmann, founder of the Pollinator Pathway, a design and philosophy project I began ten years ago. I am writing to comment upon the emerging movement of projects such as the pollinator highway mentioned by the Xerces Society on May 12.

A growing number of projects have recently adopted the idea of adding native plants to roads, a model introduced in the 1960s by the Ladybird Johnson Initiative. These initiatives are heartening and well-intended. However, if they are to contribute significantly to the goal of achieving ecological sustainability, these projects must be designed with the broader landscape in mind. If they are not, they will be nothing more than decoration for highways.

Our main goal in creating pathways, highways, or any other sort of corridor filled with native plants, must be to connect larger areas of land suitable for a diversity of species. Only this kind of connectivity has a chance of offsetting the lack of biodiversity that is inherent in large-scale agricultural and suburban sprawl, the two largest uses of land in the developed world. Without such connectivity, our low-diversity landscapes will be extremely vulnerable to climate change, and will lack resilience against all kinds of disturbance.

It is important for us to acknowledge that the goal of connectivity is not automatically achieved by adding plants to roadways. Functional connectivity can only be achieved by designing links between larger landscapes. If we do not work toward connectivity by design, and instead add plants to whatever roadway might accept our well-intentioned efforts, we will end up with nicely ornamented sprawl rather than a truly resilient and sustainable ecosystem.

To solve the large-scale problems of our time, we will need to work collaboratively across disciplines: ecologists, urban planners, designers, political organizers, and members of many other disciplines will need to work together. I’d like to invite you to utilize the Pollinator Pathway and build on its momentum: We have tools for individuals, groups and organizations wanting to design functional connective links between larger landscapes. You can find basic criteria here, and if you are a group or organization who would like further material, please feel free to email

We have an opportunity and an obligation to design very differently.


Sarah Bergmann
Pollinator Pathway

On Fri, May 12, 2017 at 1:58 PM, Matthew Shepherd wrote:
A nice bit of news: Colorado has designated I-76 as “Colorado Pollinator Highway.”



Link to Resolution:

Resolution designates Interstate 76 as Colorado’s first “Pollinator Highway”

DENVER – Colorado became friendlier to pollinators this week by passing the “Colorado Pollinator Highway” Resolution HJR 1029. The Resolution sponsored by Representative KC Becker and Senator Jerry Sonnenberg passed both the House and Senate unanimously and designates Interstate 76 from the Nebraska state line to Arvada, Colorado. The designation will allow better vegetation management, education and outreach to support pollinator habitat along the roadway.

“Restoring and managing roadsides is vital if we hope to bring back pollinators,” said Jennifer Hopwood of the Xerces Society. “We are delighted that the Colorado Department of Transportation and the State of Colorado are stepping up to help in this important effort.”

Using existing tools and programs, the resolution directs the Colorado Department of Transportation to designate Interstate 76 as the Colorado Pollinator Highway. This allows the department to accept gifts, grants or donations to install signage for public education. The measure will also direct CDOT to coordinate with local governments, willing landowners and other groups to utilize Integrated Roadside Vegetative Management strategies to develop pollinator habitat where appropriate. These efforts have been found to save state transportation agencies money as the maintenance needs of pollinator habitat are very low.

“The designation will advance Colorado efforts to expand and improve habitat on the I-76 transportation corridor emphasizing coordination and outreach. We hope I-76 will become a model for others to follow in our quest to help pollinators and better manage the indigenous plants along our corridors. We admire the decision by our state government to see the need to promote integrated vegetation management by passing this resolution. It will be a privilege to work with I-76 CDOT Maintenance and Operations and the community to implement the intent of the resolution” said Michael Banowich of the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Colorado is home to over 950 native bee species, butterflies and other insect pollinators, all of which are vital to our state’s economy, food security, and environmental health. Nationwide, Honeybee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to our agricultural crops each year, and provides the backbone to ensuring our diets are plentiful and varied. “Unfortunately, pollinator populations have been declining rapidly due to multiple stressors. “Among these stressors is habitat loss and fragmentation and a lack of availability of forage. A diverse and thriving pollinator population supports agriculture and a diverse ecosystem and there are simple tools we can engage to expand pollinator habitat in Colorado,” said Beth Conrey of People and Pollinators Action Network and past president of the Colorado State Beekeepers Association. “One area that provides an ideal opportunity is our state roadways and how we manage them.”

David Julie, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Colorado Native Plant Society said that, “Colorado’s bounty of native wildflowers supports and depends upon healthy, diverse populations of animal pollinators. The Colorado Native Plant Society appreciates that this resolution highlights the essential role of pollinators and the need to protect them.”