Why mow medians?

Mrs. Newscut and I drove down to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester on Tuesday and somewhere along Highway 52 — it might’ve been just south of Rosemount — we saw the usual line of tractors mowing the median strip. “There’s something they could do without if the state was looking to save a few bucks,” I said. There doesn’t really seem to be any sense in mowing the medians, especially since we’ve become more appreciative of wild flowers and are getting away from the notion that if it’s grass, it has to look like a Scott’s grass seed commercial.

It turns out, according to the Wadena Pioneer Journal, that maybe they shouldn’t be mowing at all. An article this afternoon quotes a Department of Natural Resources official.

“State law prohibits road authorities from mowing an entire right-of-way until July 31,” Nelson said. “Private landowners may mow or hay the roadside adjacent to their property at any time, but they can help wildlife by waiting.”

A nesting pheasant hen lays eggs at a rate of about one per day, resulting in nests that contain an average of 12 eggs. The incubation period of 23 days starts after all eggs have been laid. The hen remains on the nest during incubation, leaving only briefly to feed. If the nest is destroyed, the hen will repeatedly nest until she is successful in hatching a clutch, although re-nesting clutches have fewer eggs.

There’s a difference, of course, between a median and an adjacent right-of-way. MnDOT says mowing is necessary to improve visibility for motorists but that’s only true near intersections, perhaps.

This weekend, thousands of people are heading for the wilderness. Would it really bother us if we had to look at some along the way?

In Wisconsin, the state is paying counties for only one mowing a season, leaving the counties to pay for the rest. Some tried using jail prisoners, but the state employee union objected. Wisconsin, like Minnesota, shifted funds from transportation to other accounts, prompting an official to ask for a constitutional amendment, prohibiting the shifting of funds. “We have a grass-growing problem,” he said last week.

He said Wisconsinites don’t want median strips looking like hayfields. Why not?

Besides, the tall wildflowers — you can call them weeds if you wish — hide all the litter that gets tossed out.