Monday, March 1, 2010

Save the Dragonflies

(from the February 2010 Editor's Note of AsphaltPro Magazine)

We could talk about funding all day long and keep telling each other the same thing. We need alternative funding methods and we need to keep that message in front of Congress. Jay Hansen will iterate that more eloquently for you in the March issue. Right now, I want to touch on something environmental that sparked my interest recently.


Now, I’ve made it clear to everyone that I’m an environmentalist and a conservationist, as all members of the asphalt industry are. At the recent National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) 55th annual meeting, talk of our environmental excellence brought our good message to light time and time again. We’ll be covering those good messages in the pages of AsphaltPro, as you’ve become accustomed to, throughout 2010. But right now, I want to talk specifically about dragonflies in Illinois.

The folks at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) sent out a note about the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (ISTHA) discovering a problem with a rare insect—the endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly. It sounds gorgeous. And expensive.

It cost ISTHA $6 million to build man-made ponds and “rivulets” and little insect condos along a highway in the dragonfly’s habitat. They also made sure a $355-million bridge going up across the Will County’s Keepataw Preserve and Black Partridge Woods in Cook County went up “higher” than usual so cars would be above splatter range, if you catch my drift. This means fewer dragonflies find themselves in conflict with windshields.

Personally, I think $6 million is a hefty price to pay to save an insect species. But I won’t begrudge these bugs their place in our world. If the sea turtles needed $6 million, I’d be the first in line to help raise the funds. So I’ll raise my glass to the folks in the ISTHA who came up with the plan to build little homes for the dragonflies and ponds for their better breeding practices. How else do you save a species but by encouraging good breeding, right?

I’m one of those crazy people who frets over the animals when the weather does something unexpected. I let a lizard come live in my house when the weather dipped into the 30s and 40s here in Florida in early January. (I might have fed him a non-endangered species of fly if one had been available.) So, yes, I feel sympathy for dragonflies that teeter on the edge of extinction, and applaud the agency workers who came up with a solution that protected the dragonflies while keeping commerce, economy and American motorists moving.

It’s something asphalt contractors and department of transportation engineers have to throw in the design plans once in a while—making special accommodations for animals in the area or for habitats “downstream.” It’s environmentally responsible. It’s the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s expensive. However it’s worked out, there are members of the industry like me who applaud you for protecting the parts and pieces of our world on one level while protecting the motoring public on another.

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor
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