ODOT Monarch Program Wins Prestigious Statewide Award

Vonceil Harmon, Researcher/Specialist
& Monarch Program Lead
for ODOT Natural Resources Program (right) accepts award on behalf of ODOT at the 2023 KOB Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony.

Kaitlyn Taylor (left) and Vonceil Harmon (right), biologists with the ODOT Natural Resources Program accept an award on behalf of ODOT at the 2023 KOB Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s Monarch Program received the 2023 State Government Program Environmental Excellence Award. The award was presented at the annual Keep Oklahoma Beautiful Environmental Excellence Awards celebration in November 2023.

The Monarch Program, established in 2016, aims to promote native and pollinator habitat along Oklahoma’s roadways. ODOT’s collaboration with state and national partners has resulted in the commitment of over 10,000 acres of transportation rights-of-way to protect Monarch butterflies and other pollinators, enhancing the state’s travel experience with native wildflowers and habitats. This recognition underscores ODOT’s dedication to environmental stewardship and the positive outcomes of collective efforts in preserving and enhancing Oklahoma’s natural beauty.

ODOT’s commitment involves various initiatives, including reduced mowing during migration, targeted herbicide use, habitat preservation, educational events, and the addition of Monarch-friendly plants to seed mixes.

One of the greatest threats to Monarch populations is loss of habitat along the butterflies’ annual migratory routes. Important conservation efforts such as ODOT’s Monarch program assist with the population recovery of these charismatic pollinators as well as enhancing nectar resources for other pollinators such as native bees and migrating birds.

Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, founded in 1965, is a statewide nonprofit organization and a state affiliate of “Keep America Beautiful.” KOB’s mission is to empower Oklahoma citizens to preserve and enhance the state’s natural beauty and ensure a healthy, sustainable environment.

Earlier in 2023, ODOT received recognition from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for the department’s early adoption into the Monarch Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances. Additionally, ODOT was one of two DOTs recognized with the “Outside the Box” award for the department’s innovation and implementation of the Monarch CCAA Program.