DitchesDo you think counties should be spending money on mowing ditches?

I found the following detail of the Minnesota statute pertaining to mowing ditches at the Minnesota State Legislature website, or more specifically at the Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes website:

2007 Minnesota Statutes

    (a) To provide enhanced roadside habitat for nesting birds and other small wildlife, road
    authorities may not mow or till the right-of-way of a highway located outside of a home rule
    charter or statutory city except as allowed in this section and section 160.23.
    (b) On any highway, the first eight feet away from the road surface, or shoulder if one
    exists, may be mowed at any time.
    (c) An entire right-of-way may be mowed after July 31. From August 31 to the following
    July 31, the entire right-of-way may only be mowed if necessary for safety reasons, but may not
    be mowed to a height of less than 12 inches.
    (d) A right-of-way may be mowed as necessary to maintain sight distance for safety and
    may be mowed at other times under rules of the commissioner, or by ordinance of a local road
    authority not conflicting with the rules of the commissioner.
    (e) A right-of-way may be mowed, burned, or tilled to prepare the right-of-way for the
    establishment of permanent vegetative cover or for prairie vegetation management.
    (f) When feasible, road authorities are encouraged to utilize low maintenance, native
    vegetation that reduces the need to mow, provides wildlife habitat, and maintains public safety.
    (g) The commissioner of natural resources shall cooperate with the commissioner of
    transportation to provide enhanced roadside habitat for nesting birds and other small wildlife.

I agreed with most of this Minnesota statute, then I found the information at the Office of Environmental Services website for the Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management (IRVM) process

IRVM is a decision-making and quality management process for maintaining roadside vegetation that integrated the following:

  • the needs of local communities and highway users
  • the knowledge of plant ecology and natural processes
  • design, construction, and maintenance considerations
  • monitoring and evaluation procedures
  • government statutes and regulations
  • technology

…with cultural, biological, mechanical, and chemical pest control methods to economically manage roadsides for safety plus environmental and visual quality (NVRMA, 1997).

First of all, you can be sure that county ditch mowers run wild during the month of August if not before that every year in this state.  It happens nearly every year across the front of my property; every once in a while my ditch, the one you see pictured above, eludes the razor’s edge.  If a ditch being mowed would resolve a safety issue I could understand that, but I believe in most cases it falls on those last two words in the IRVM statement…

“visual quality.”

Mother Culture has beaten into our minds that a freshly mowed expanse of grass is the only acceptable form of appearance for that piece of real estate, which in fact, by the statutes own words is habitat for wildlife and native vegetation.  What’s wrong with the wildflowers that bloom in my ditch each summer and the beauty of the grasses waving in the wind?  Isn’t that “visual quality?”

Then there is the mention of “chemical pest control methods.”  Are these really necessary?  Where do those chemicals end up?  In the water supply?  In the lakes I fish?  Not to mention the fuel consumption and emissions produced just to maintain this unjustified taxpayer expense of visual quality.

Wouldn’t the first eight feet mentioned in the statute, if that is even necessary, be enough to solve the safety issue at all times?  Don’t come around here mowing my ditch.  We don’t need your habitat destruction in the guise of management.  There’s already plenty of it going on in this world.

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