Jan 25, 2021
Our Industry Protects the Environment
BY Sandy Lender
Long-time subscribers know individual staff members of AsphaltPro magazine are committed to environmental sustainability. Along with sea turtle conservation, I personally have an obsession with planting trees and shrubberies that feed bees and butterflies. This touches tangentially on the recycling topic this month so I hope you’ll indulge me as I share some news from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) e-newsletter TRB News, first published Dec. 3, 2020.
First, for background, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided Dec. 15, 2020, not to classify the monarch butterfly as a federally endangered species under the Endangered Species Act yet. The official word from FWS is “listing the monarch as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act is warranted, but precluded by higher priority listing actions.”
Transportation planning can help all the wildlife, though, no matter its status.
“Roadsides provide promising monarch butterfly habitat as they frequently contain nectar and host plants; however, they also present a range of risks, including pesticide spillover, vehicle collisions, contaminant runoff and non-native vegetation,” the December TRB e-newsletter stated. “The TRB National Cooperative Highway Research Program’s (NCHRP) Evaluating the Suitability of Roadway Corridors for Use by Monarch Butterflies provides guidance for roadside managers to determine the potential of their roadway corridors as habitat for monarch butterflies. The research topic influenced a 2014 Presidential Memorandum encouraging U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration to work with state departments of transportation, transportation associations and roadside managers as part of a holistic approach within the United States to promote the health of pollinators. The report also includes several tools and decision-support mechanisms to optimize habitat potential in a manner that is compatible with the continued operation and maintenance of the roadside.
“Earlier in 2020, a TRB webinar based on the report highlighted tools available to roadside managers to assess monarch habitats. Participants also heard about management support materials and were presented with case studies regarding the success of programs in transportation departments with pollinator habitat programs.”
Here’s the rub in potentially “legislating compassion.” As mentioned in the first paragraph of this month’s note, individual members of this magazine staff—as well as members of our industry—care about the environment around them and work to preserve and safeguard that environment. Members of the asphalt industry don’t require government regulation to strong-arm us into protecting wildlife, water, air and so on.
Independence tends to go out the window when legislative bodies pass laws demanding certain percentages of plastic be included in asphalt mix designs or insanely low volatile organic compounds eek past filters in stacks. As evidenced by the preponderance of self-regulating ideas for making work sites pollution-free and roadsides hospitable for non-endangered butterflies, our industry is working on sustainability even without draconian decrees from government interference.
Our industry is made up of humans who live in the same environments and communities as the humans who are not part of the industry. From lab techs who seek viable options for increasing recycled asphalt pavement percentages in mix designs to hot-mix plant owners who build tortoise habitats on the edges of their sites to aggregate suppliers who reclaim their land into waterways for wildlife to every asphalt professional who finds a way to reduce fuel use, stack temperatures, paper tickets at loadout, and so on, this industry is finding a multitude of creative and innovative ways to save the planet we call home without legislative complications. We’ve got this.