DC plans massive replacement of wasteful turf with wildlife-friendly native plants

The city’s energy and environment department is piloting a project that could ultimately convert a “massive” amount of city-owned land, most of which is covered in traditional turf, into meadowlands that will provide habitat for birds, butterflies and amphibians, as well as save some labor and money.

The spaces under consideration are the grasses in medians, on-ramps, right-of-ways and other chunks of land that are often not thought of much. But they still have to be maintained by the city, costing time, money and increasing carbon emissions.

Damien Ossi of DC’s environment department says a low-mow meadow could reduce city mowing of these sites to “once every couple of years.

Restoration ecologist Deborah Keammerer says the water savings for one of these conversions can be huge. Depending on the type of grasses used to replace Kentucky bluegrass, landscaping departments can cut water usage in half — or stop irrigating entirely.

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