Tallgrass Prairie Center


Iowa Roadside Management

Native roadside vegetation

The Iowa Roadside Management Office at UNI

We serve Iowa's county roadside vegetation programs. We organize meetings, provide counties native seed to plant on their roadsides, connect the roadside community through a listserv and monthly e-newsletter, and conduct public outreach. The roadside program manager also provides guidance and support to Iowa counties establishing new roadside programs, and strengthens programs statewide through partnerships with the Iowa Department of Transportation's Living Roadway Trust Fund and other agencies.

In Iowa, a county with a roadside program typically:

  • employs a roadside manager who provides leadership for managing the county's roadside vegetation
  • manages their roadsides using the principles of integrated roadside vegetation management (IRVM; see below)
  • creates an IRVM plan, which is filed with the Iowa DOT and allows the county to apply for grants
  • regularly requests seed from the Iowa Roadside Management office

How can a roadside manager save a county money? Watch this interview with Jones County engineer Derek Snead:


What does a roadside manager do for a county? Jones County roadside manager Wes Gibbs explains:


Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management

Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management (IRVM) is an approach to right-of-way maintenance that combines a variety of management techniques with sound ecological principles. A county that applies IRVM principles:

  • plants and maintains safe, healthy, and functional roadside vegetation
  • strategically sprays herbicides to control the most problematic weeds (as opposed to blanket spraying all of the roadside vegetation to control weeds)
  • strategically mows for safety and weed control, while leaving vegetation farther from the road unmowed
  • conducts prescribed burns to keep prairie vegetation healthy and prevent trees and shrubs from growing
  • mechanically removes trees and shrubs with chainsaws and other equipment
  • prevents and treats erosion and other disturbances to the right-of-way

A long-term objective is to establish diverse stands of native plants in the right-of-way. These strong, weed-resistant plant communities adapt to all roadside conditions and provide a variety of services: enhancing rainfall infiltration; slowing runoff; trapping sediment; reducing erosion, and creating habitat for pollinators, nesting birds, and other wildlife. To access a series of related brochures, click here

Iowa Roadside Management's objectives were first outlined in Iowa Code 314.21 and 314.22. This 1988 legislation created funding for the Program Office at the University of Northern Iowa through the establishment of the Living Roadway Trust Fund.


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