What is the CORRIDORS Program?
CORRIDORS is a DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife program to develop habitats for grassland-dependent species and to foster improved pollinator habitat along roadways and waterways. Program partners include the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever.
The program has four priority areas:
- Indiana State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs).
- Right-of-ways on Interstates, and state and federal highways.
- The 100-year flood plains of rivers.
- Areas adjacent to any body of water.
Each agency has different roles:
- The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) provides technical assistance, incentive payments in certain circumstances, and coordinate efforts between agencies to provide habitat in all of the priority focal areas of the CORRIDORS program. DFW biologists will work with private landowners, INDOT crews, NRCS personnel and private contractors to establish as much habitat as possible and maximize the benefits of the CORRIDORS initiative.
- INDOT establishes native grasses and plants where possible along rights of way of Indiana highways. This effort increases habitat for wildlife and pollinator species while reducing mowing and maintenance. This saves taxpayers money while providing wildlife habitat. INDOT efforts along highways are strategically planned with DFW and NRCS effort to create connecting habitats when possible.
- The NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners in all of the CORRIDORS priority areas to increase wildlife habitat while improving soil health and benefiting water quality within all of the focal regions of the CORRIDORS initiative.
- Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever provides technical assistance through the efforts of their Farm Bill biologists and assist in promotion of the CORRIDORS initiative in Indiana.
Priority funding comes from the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), INDOT funds for state highway vegetative maintenance, and Gamebird Habitat Stamp revenue from DNR. Other funding opportunities come from other Farm Bill programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE), and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Other federal, state, and local funds may also be available.
If you are interested in learning more about the CORRIDORS program initiative, please contact your District Wildlife Biologist.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can the CORRIDORS program benefit me?
If you’re a private landowner, the CORRIDORS program can benefit you by:
- providing technical and financial assistance for establishing wildlife habitat on your property,
- helping you get rid of invasive species,
- helping you address erosion, sedimentation or other water quality and soil health concerns,
- providing aesthetic benefits.
For all citizens of Indiana, the CORRIDORS program beautifies roadways; provides food and habitat for pollinators, which are responsible for one-third of all food consumed in the world; and reduces tax dollars spent on mowing and maintenance of Indiana highway right-of-ways.
Why does INDOT not mow along the roads? Why do they let the weeds grow?
INDOT does control vegetation in the medians and right-of-ways along its limited-access, divided and rural state highways with a combination of full- and partial-width mowing focused on four zones. However, INDOT is committed to reducing spending on maintenance by mowing and spraying less. Additionally, areas planted with native grasses and wildflowers provide habitat for grassland species such as Northern bobwhite, Eastern meadowlark and many other mammals, reptiles and birds. The same habitat provides crucial habitat for many pollinator species such as bees and the imperiled monarch butterfly. By increasing habitat for wildlife, INDOT also saves taxpayers money.
Why are pollinators important?
Native wildflowers provide the necessary pollen and nectar for the bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other species that depend upon them for food. Those same species then provide the pollination necessary to grow many important food crops that the world depends upon. Numerous studies suggest that one in every three bites of food that humans consume is a result of pollination by animal species.
What was wrong with the plants that were along the highway? Why did we have to get rid of those?
Many of the plants that have existed along highways, waterways and many other unused areas of the state are non-native plants that can be invasive. Such plants often out-compete native plants and don’t provide the necessary benefits for wildlife to thrive. Examples include tall fescue, garlic mustard, phragmites and Canada thistle. The CORRIDORS program is designed to replace poor plant selections with native grasses and wildflowers that also benefit pollinator species.
Why should I care about grasslands?
Grassland habitat is critical for the survival of many species, including songbirds, gamebirds, grasshoppers, and butterflies as well as mammals, insects and reptiles. Species that depend on grasslands include bobwhite quail, Eastern meadowlarks, cottontail rabbits and the Eastern box turtle. The Indiana State Wildlife Action Plan, a robust conservation effort designed to identify the most important conservation issues in Indiana, identified the loss of grassland habitats in the state as the number one threat to wildlife. If you enjoy monarch butterflies, quail and pheasant hunting, watching birds at your bird feeder, or hearing spring peepers or other frogs, grasslands habitats are important to you.
How is the CORRIDORS program helping soil health and water quality?
Establishing native grasses and wildflowers promotes soil health and water quality by reducing erosion and sedimentation, increasing organic matter in the soil, providing a buffer for runoff and pollutants before they enter waterways, and helping stabilize stream banks.
How can I participate in the CORRIDORS program?
If you are a landowner in one of the priority focus areas, you could participate by establishing habitat on your property through the CORRIDORS program. To get started, contact your DNR Grassland or District Biologist. From there, you can enroll in programs, receive technical advice, and apply for potential funding to help offset the costs of the habitat establishment.
If you aren’t a landowner but want to support the program, you can do so by spreading the word about the initiative and providing support to efforts by INDOT, DNR and NRCS to improve habitat, soil health, water quality, and quality of life. Many outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting and trapping support DNR and programs such as the Gamebird Habitat Development Program (which is funded through Gamebird Habitat Stamp sales).