Melissa O’Rourke, ISU Extension Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist
Farmland owners and operators should be aware of recent changes to Iowa law regarding mowing along Iowa roads. The mowing restrictions apply to private landowners as well as local government units. Changes to mowing regulations were enacted during the 2010 legislature – so 2011 is the first full year of effectiveness.
Mowing regulations now apply to secondary roads throughout Iowa as well as to interstates and primary roads. This is a significant change to the roadway mowing regulations contained in Iowa Code 314.17.
Secondary roads are those roads under county jurisdiction. Primary roads are any roads or streets under the jurisdiction of the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT).
Mowing is prohibited prior to July 15th along any secondary road, primary road, or interstate highway in Iowa.
However, the law contains a list of exceptions to the July 15 date. Mowing along roadways is allowed prior to July 15th within 200 yards of an inhabited dwelling, for visibility and safety reasons, or along a right-of-way within one mile of corporate city limits.
Mowing prior to July 15th is also allowed for purposes of access to a mailbox or other accessibility purposes – such as field access. Additionally, mowing is permitted within 50 feet of a drainage tile or tile intake.
Mowing is also allowed to promote native species of vegetation or other long-lived and adaptable vegetation, or to establish control of damaging insect populations, noxious weeds and invasive plant species.
Mowing is permitted on rights-of-way adjacent to agricultural demonstration or research plots.
Finally, the law also points out that mowing is allowed in rest areas, weigh stations and wayside parks at any time.
Prior to enactment of these changes, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) issued mowing permits as early as July 1. The significance of changing the prohibited mowing date to July 15 is to allow a second nesting season for pheasants and other Iowa native bird populations.
According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), pheasant hens that were unsuccessful in nesting during May or June will attempt a second nest. For those birds, the first two weeks of July is critical because that is the time chicks begin to hatch from second nesting efforts. The DNR points out that pheasants – as well as many songbird specieis – use roadside ditches for nesting and brood rearing habitat.
Recent years have seen weather patterns making for challenging nesting seasons. 2011 is no exception throughout much of Iowa.
With struggling pheasant populations, the DNR encourages everyone to follow the mowing regulations to provide additional opportunities for nesting success. Summer weather patterns of dry, warm weather increase nesting success and chick survival.
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