- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2016

NEW MARKET, Md. (AP) - A New Market woman has teamed up with the state of Maryland to determine the best way to maintain the land along several state highways as habitats for bees and butterflies, whose numbers are in decline.

Lisa Kuder, a second-year doctoral student at the University of Maryland, launched a three-year study last month with the State Highway Administration examining the impact of two land-management practices on the populations of bees, butterflies and pollinator-friendly plants along several state roads.

Kuder said she hopes the study will provide SHA and other transportation agencies across the nation with a best practice for maintaining roadside land for pollinators, a species some say may be dying out.

An estimated 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species, such as bees and butterflies, are facing extinction, according to a news release on a study conducted by the United Nations that was released in February.

Kuder said she is conducting her study at seven sites, five of which are in Frederick County along stretches of U.S. 15 and Maryland 194. The other two sites are in Carroll and Talbot counties, she said.

At each site, Kuder said she plans to document and compare two types of land-management practices used on different stretches of land. One is reduced mowing, a fairly hands-off approach that allows nature to dictate growth and development rather than having SHA’s contractors mow, she said.

The second approach is to practice integrated vegetation management, which Kuder described as having a trained botanist regularly visit the site and carry out efforts to help plants and pollinators thrive.

All land used for the study will be treated for noxious weeds and other invasive species, Kuder said, adding that these kinds of plants can harm the land and repel the pollinators she aims to attract and help.

The idea for Kuder’s study stemmed from her work with bees as a master’s student at Hood College, she said. Upon joining the University of Maryland to continue her work, Kuder said President Barack Obama’s 2014 memorandum to promote the health of honey bees and pollinators struck a chord.

This call to action led Kuder to conduct further research. She found that one way to help save the pollinator population was to “save habitats along roadsides.”

Over the next three years, Kuder will work with biologists, landscapers and other employees from SHA to conduct this study. Kuder said SHA biologists had already begun work on developing roadside habitats for pollinators, such as reduced mowing, which only fueled her desire to work with them for the study.

Charlie Gischlar, a SHA spokesman, said the agency began mowing roadside land less and less in 2008 as part of a cost-effective measure during the recession and to reduce emissions released into the air.

Today, SHA continues to mow less roadside land to help pollinators and create habitats. A SHA press release issued in 2015 said the agency was working to help pollinators through this and other measures.

Gischlar also said SHA welcomed the chance to collaborate with Kuder and the University of Maryland on this study, saying the agency’s involvement made sense because it is “one of the biggest landowners in the state because of all the roads,” a helpful aspect for this study.

“It makes sense for us to help propagate these species,” Gischlar said.

Although it has been only a month since the study started, Kuder said she is already seeing native Maryland grasses and flowers sprouting at some of the sites. And while it’s too early to tell which land-management practice will prove best for pollinators, Kuder said she has an idea which one will be.

“From what I’ve heard from pilot studies, I’m leaning toward (integrated vegetation management) as a better management option,” she said, adding that only time will tell.

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Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com

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