The Highways BEE Act: Politics as Usual



Sigh.  So here's a perfectly smart and sensible bill that's going nowhere. Has anyone been following the Highways BEE Act?  It is a revenue-neutral bill (should actually save money) that directs the Secretary of Transportation to use already existing resources and programs to work with the state highway departments, which manage the greenery around interstate highways.  The idea is to get them to use an already-existing approach called IVM (integrated vegetation management) to mow less, plant more natives, and allow highway right-of-ways to serve as habitat for pollinators, ground-nesting birds, etc.

Again.  Revenue-neutral. Already all set up. Enjoys wide support.  Expected to save the states money.

So what's the problem?

Certain members of Congress feel that the government should not be involved in highways at all, and that this bill simply represents more unwanted government interference. 

That's right.  You heard me. Interstate highways should not be government-run. 

I'm just going to pause and let that one sink in for a minute.

If you're not sure which "certain members" I'm talking about, here's a hint:  They were recently voted into office by people who shouted things like "Get the government out of my Medicare" at rallies.


The highway bill is being held up for all sorts of reasons right now.  You can imagine the kind of pointless bickering that's going on.

But this?  Please.

Read more about the bill here.

Sign a petition here.

Please spread the word. If you want to tweet this out, give a little shout-out to @Pollinators, the good folks behind this thing.

Oh, and Congress?  Could you please, for once, just lighten up and do something sensible and not turn everything into a huge, unnecessary drama and just get back to work and quietly and nicely do your job?

I didn't think so.


  1. Too simple a solution! BTW if Interstate Highways aren’t under gov’t control, who is responsible? I think I learned the meaning of INTERstate in high school & why the federal gov’t has jurisdiction. Are these people stupid?

  2. Also want to delete the requirement that a percentage of the highway funds go to bike and hiking trail construction and public transportation. The highway bill has always been a tuffy to get thru congress.

  3. Holy SH*T amen. Hey–why not have boy scouts maintain highways? Or girl scouts? I’m all about equality. The girl scouts could also sell cookies to motorists stuck in construction gridlock. I mean, duh. Where’s congress on this one? Dipwads. This makes me want to go toss seed out my car window as I drive down the road.

  4. Signed awhile ago. Disappointed to hear this is yet another important bill that’s stuck in a deadbeat congress.

  5. I’m a little conflicted about this. I did sign the petition and I do believe in creating ROW that do not need to be mowed and incorporating native plants and the rest of it. Not long ago I took a road trip in Texas when the wildflowers were blooming in the ROW. While the flowers were stunning and there were pollinators galore, a lot of those pollinators were dying on the grills of every vehicle going down the interstate. Isn’t it counter productive to create this nice environment for pollinators only to kill them with every passing vehicle?

  6. Uh. The FEDERAL government should have nothing to do with highways. It is called the Constitution if you really need a reason. They should be the state governments responsibility. Just because the Feds paid to build most of them doesn’t mean Constitutionally that they should have. Oh……that is right…..I forgot…..the Constitution is just some old outdated document……nevermind.

  7. Signed with comments.
    Just attended two sessions on bees in history and spirituality, as well as in agriculture. I may see about putting a Mason bee gathering spot in my yard–they’ll have plenty of work to do, and a variety of interesting flowers to visit.

  8. Sorry, Amy … your rant is vacuous, left-coast babble.

    How can any reasonable person expect the people (congress) who screwed things up in the first place be expected to provide an effective solution?

    Michael is on target when he says:
    “The FEDERAL government should have nothing to do with highways. It is called the Constitution if you really need a reason. They should be the state governments responsibility.”

    And some of us actually DO take local control when the damn feds keep their nose out of our business. I will refer you to a website that will even provide you with a technical manual on how the state of Iowa has been doing it since 1988. — That’s right . . . 1988!

    Our roadsides provide four seasons of native plant beauty (including much of I-80 and the various other federal highways). Routinely, people from out-of-state remark how beautiful their drive was through our state.

    Quit looking for the federal government to provide solutions. Some of us just do what is needed because we learned long ago to be wary of anything the government gets involved with. It is a guarantee of cost over-runs, screw-ups and results in wasted tax dollars.

    The last thing that we need here in Iowa is somebody from the federal government like Nancy Pelosi telling us how to do things.

    Leave us alone! We are doing just fine — and provide a manual to prove it.

  9. Yeah Amy. The founders thought long and hard about it and left the interstate freeways out of the constitution by design! There’s no FAA in the constitution either so we should end air traffic control, too!

  10. “directs the Secretary of Transportation (federal monies)to use already existing resources and programs to work with the STATE highway departments, which manage the greenery around interstate highways”

  11. With BOTH parties, the problem with politicians is never what they say — it is what they do.

    Iowa is a lightly populated state which has a higher population of hogs than it does people (A true fact.). We do not have the ability to just throw money at problems from a huge tax base. We must be resourceful — and we were.

    Largely driven by a small group of native plant enthusiasts at the University of Northern Iowa, an opportunity was recognized and seized.

    Our roadways are beautiful — and at times, absolutely stunning. For over 24 years, we have quietly been progressing on native roadside plantings, parking the mowers and saving the fuel they burn.

    Twenty four years later, the feds are still yapping; which is politico-speak for finding ways to slip favorite pork projects into a new federal bill.

    You choose what you prefer — we already have. We didn’t need the feds to simply apply some common sense. In this case, I really don’t think anybody else does either. The federal government has never displayed much of a penchant for common sense.

  12. Yeah, let’s let the government be in charge of our internet, grocery stores, farmers markets, housing,……….

  13. The federal interstate was built for national protection. During WWI Ike (as in President Eisenhower) was appalled at how long it took to get the trucks made in Detroit to the east coast to go to Europe. And how long it took to cross the country from east to west. He started working on the idea of a national hiway system for national defence that long ago.

    Dan, I am betting Iowa DOT did their native planting because the Feds said here is money and do it. Every state DOT has some type of wildflower planting, some are just better than others. And if the the funding is cut in this transportation bill, Iowa might not have such pretty roadsides. Many little portions of many federal agencies are being wiped out because people want smaller government. Things like funding for 4H, Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

  14. I remember when conservatives were proud of the shiny new interstate highway system. There was a world of difference between transportation in 1955 and 1965. They were proud of our libraries, public schools, and the military also. Sigh. In the better part of a century, I have never seen the country so divided.

    I have a long commute on our Northern Desert highways, and I’ve admired various ambitious plants through the years who tried to make a foray into the highway right of way, only to see them cut down. I’d like to see this pass. I’ll be out back in my garden if anyone wants me…

  15. Dan, I am betting Iowa DOT did their native planting because the Feds said here is money and do it.

    No, Tibs, that simply is not the case. This was an issue long ago addressed by the Iowa legislature (Iowa Code Section 314.22 — 1988 legislation)– not the feds. In fact, other states have recently been contacting Iowa to see how we are doing it. The DOTs of surrounding states are all facing financial crunches and began to realize that the native plantings are saving the Iowa DOT a tremendous amount of money. If we had waited for the feds to get involved, we would be whining for a petition like the rest of the country, waiting — 24 years, now — for something to be done.

    I am absolutely confounded by the seeming attitude that solutions to problems can only be found at the federal level! Does no one else see a potential problem with putting the federal government in charge of an effort to save money?

    As Doctor Phil would ask: “How has that one been working out for ya?”

    As an Iowan, I am totally against federal involvement on this issue. We have a good thing going and I do not want the feds to muck it up for us. We recognized something worth doing and took care of it ourselves. Why can’t you? We would be glad to offer any help to other states (or even communities or neighborhoods) if you would just show up with some gumption.

    Instead of simply saying, “I’ll be out back in my garden if anyone wants me…” maybe you should be more proactive and plant a few native seeds (both literally and figuratively) in a public area.

    If not now – when?
    If not me – who?

  16. So, how does this relate to the earlier post about the federal government adopting sustainable landscaping? It would seem that the requirement to use native plant would support this initiative…or am I missing something (like the right hand not knowing what the left is up to…)??

  17. If an issue begs for local control, it would be sustainable landscaping, and in particular, the use of native plants.

    Let’s not fall for the sweet sounding, too-often misused “bambi labels” like sustainable landscaping. The devil is always in the details. How many perceived definitions of sustainable landscaping do you think exist — or do you just want to be forced to start using the one that some politicians would conjure up in Washington D.C.?

    Try defining “native plant.” Actually, I have seen that done. As part of a new, major medical facility, the TIFF government financing required the use of native plants in a children’s healing garden. To meet this mandate, the landscape architect had a bunch of Cicuta maculata planted around the pond area because it looked pretty in a native plant catalog.

    To be certain, it is native to this area and it is a reasonably attractive plant. Perfect for a children’s healing garden — right? After all . . . it met the government’s requirement for native plants. And by the way, the common name for this native plant is Water Hemlock — one of the most poisonous plants on the face of the earth. All parts of it are extremely toxic, but in “green-speak,” it is native.

    Thank God this was an issue of local control and not at the federal level! (They didn’t need a petition.) Local citizens were quickly able to assert and demand changes.

    the right hand not knowing what the left is up to…” is generally a pretty good description of government — particularly the federal government. Unquestionably, the federal government has a place in modern society. However, do you really think that that government is going to excel at landscaping?

    We need more pork on the dinner table and less in yet another federal mandate.

  18. There is lots of things I wish were kept at locol control, Major roads so I can drive from one side of the country to the other without (usually) paying tolls is one of them Do you really want to pay for roads yourself? Think of front footage assessment as in you own x’ along this road you live on and it cost $$$ per mile to build/maintain/snow plow so your cost is $$$$. Or some little gadget in your car that shows what roads you have driven on and how many miles and you get billed for it. Heck no, give me federal funded roads. And other major infrastructre. It is too expensive for only local dollars to build.

  19. Dan was this landscape architect who planted Water Hemlock a government employee or a private contractor? If the architect was from a private firm does this mean in the free enterprise capitalist system “the right hand is not knowing what the left is up to.” and the private sector can’t ever do anything right or efficiently?

  20. This is a reponse to Autumn who was worried that the highway plantings would be responsible for getting bees killed by cars. The Xerces Society [pollinator experts] said that the benefit of highway plantings far outweigh the fact that a certain number of pollinators will in fact be killed by motorists.
    If you want an AWESOME book on polliators try “Attracting Native Pollinators;the Xerces Society guide.

  21. I’m wondering how much money would be saved on the state level. Would it be enough to create jobs for 2 or 3 plant scientists with serious experience on the native vegetation of “said” state? with enough savings left over to make it worth while? managed under the state wildlife resource agencies? or would it have to go through state DOT? My curiosity is peaked.

  22. This painting has cauesd some real emotion in me. I have this feeling and i know deep down inside that there is something that is really, really wrong with America ! It is an evil that has been here since this great nation was just an idea. And it is here in full force at this moment ! This evil has even got the best of some of are greatest leaders, Like Lincoln And has totally consumed others like Wilson. I cannot stand the thought of so many Americans supporting this power hungry machine we call are government ! Don’t they know that it can never have enough ? It will keep consuming until there is nothing left ! It is not human and has no feelings towards man. And it does not come from man, it comes from the great evil which i am talking about ! Look at the Soviet Union. I feel so sad because i do not get the feeling they are my country men any longer and it hurts me because i love them ! They are still my brothers and sisters. God please help us all !!!!

  23. The above article is based on a maeitksn premise that the states have the power to abridge the rights of citizens. Neither the states nor the federal government have this power both are charged with the duty (and power) to protect the rights of citizens.It is a false dichotomy to claim this is states rights vs. federal power, where it is based actually on the constitutionally created tension between the state and federal governments CREATED SPECIFICALLY to protect the rights of the people.Were there any doubt of this (there never really was) the 14th Amendment made this explicit.You (nor I) do NOT lose any rights when we cross a state line. Our rights are unalienable.The Right to Keep and Bear Arms is as much fundamental and necessary (the Constitution declares this explicitly also) as the rights to free speech, free press, assembly, religion, thought, or any other.No American may be deprived of any of these rights without abridging the provisions of the Constitution.

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