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Iowa mowing laws designed to protect roadside habitats

April 24, 2014

Rebecca Kauten, IRVM program manager, Tallgrass Prairie Center, 319-273-3856,

Lindsay Cunningham, Office of University Relations, 319-273-6728,

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The University of Northern Iowa's Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management program (IRVM) reminds Iowans of restrictions prohibiting the mowing of state-maintained highway right-of-way and roadside ditches prior to July 15.

Iowa Code 314.7, which includes county secondary roads as well as state primary and interstate highways, extended the no-mow period, now from July 1 through July 15, to provide an additional two weeks for the hatching and development of young ground-nesting birds and pollinators.

Exceptions to the law are as follows:

-Within 200 yards of an inhabited dwelling

-On right-of-way within one mile of the corporate limits of a city

-To promote native species of vegetation or other long-lived and adaptable vegetation

-To establish control of damaging insect populations, noxious weeds and invasive plant species

-For visibility and safety reasons

-Within rest areas, weigh stations and wayside parks

-Within 50 feet of a drainage tile or tile intake

-For access to mailbox or for other accessibility purposes

-On right-of-way adjacent agricultural demonstration or research plots

"In an agricultural state such as Iowa, the law serves as a reminder to those who do not need to mow their ditches to leave what's there as habitat," said Rebecca Katuen, IRVM program manager. "Aggressive mowing weakens vegetation along slopes, allowing for erosion and soil loss, thereby also creating openings for weeds. We need to think of roadsides as a productive part of the landscape for wildlife, as well as a safe zone for travelers."

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