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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

6 Steps to Make Your Backyard a Certified Wildlife Habitat

Thank you Graphics Fairy for the vintage art 

"Whether you have an apartment balcony or a 20 acre farm, you can create a garden that attracts beautiful wildlife and helps restore habitat in commercial and residential areas."  

National Wildlife Federation: Garden for Wildlife

To date, there are 174,894 habitats that welcome wildlife by providing food, water and cover in order to be certified by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).  According to the NWF, habitat loss is the largest threat to the health, well-being and survival of the native wildlife in the United States.  

Habitats are being lost three ways: 

  • Habitat destruction:  Clear cutting of trees, bulldozing areas for future building, turning meadows into housing developments and filling in wetlands all contribute to the destruction. 
  • Habitat fragmentation:  Even when a portion of a natural habitat is kept intact, the connections to other natural areas are now broken up and not connected due to roads and development.  The fragments that remain may not be large enough to support food needs and space needs for reproduction. 
  • Habitat degradation:  This encompasses pollution and invasive species.  Invasive species can choke out the native plants that support native wildlife.  
So how can you help?  You can create a welcoming habitat right in your own yard by following these steps from NWF Garden for Wildlife :  
  • Step 1:  Provide Food for Wildlife--Aim for at least three of these food sources either in the form of plants or feeders. 
    • Seeds
    • Berries
    • Nectar
    • Foliage and twigs
    • Nuts
    • Fruits
    • Sap
    • Pollen
    • Suet
    • Feeders for birds, squirrels, hummingbirds and butterflies
  • Step 2:  Provide Water for Wildlife--Aim for at least one of these water sources. 
    • Birdbath
    • Lake
    • Stream
    • Pool
    • Ocean
    • Water Garden or Pond
    • River
    • Butterfly Puddle
    • Rain Garden
    • Natural Spring 
  • Step 3:  Provide safe Cover as shelter from the weather and safety from predators--Aim for at least two areas of shelter.  
    • Wooded area
    • Bramble patch
    • Ground cover
    • Rock wall or rock pile
    • Cave
    • Roosting box
    • Shrubs
    • Evergreen trees
    • Brush pile
    • Burrow
    • Meadow
    • Water garden or Pond
  • Step 4:  Provide a  safe place for wildlife to raise their babies.  Some of these areas will be the same as providing safe cover.  But, sometimes specific wildlife need specific host plants to rear the young.  Aim for at least two places for wildlife to mate, gestate and raise the young.   
    • Mature trees
    • Meadow
    • Nesting box
    • Wetlands
    • Cave
    • Host plants
    • Dead trees
    • Shrubs
    • Water garden or Pond
    • Burrow
  •  Step 5:  Garden in a sustainable way--Aim for at least two of these garden practices.  
    • Use Soil and Water Conservation
      • Capture rainwater
      • Use a soaker hose
      • Reduce erosion
      • Use mulch
      • Rain garden
    • Control Invasive Species
      • Use integrated pest management
      • Remove non-native plants and animals
      • Use native plants
      • Reduce lawn areas
    • Use Organic Practices
      • Eliminate Chemical Pesticides 
      • Eliminate Chemical Fertilizers
      • Compost
  • Step 6:  Apply for your Certification
    • Complete the Online Application
      • Complete the type of habitat:  home, business, school, farm
      • Enter your contact information
      • Answer the questionnaire about your habitat
      • Pay a fee ($20) 
        • Benefits include a certificate, e-newsletter, a subscription to the National Wildlife magazine and a discount to the products in the  NWF catalog
        • You can also order a sign to designate your habitat but it is not required
I'm in process of getting my habitat ready for certification and I do hope you will consider making these changes even if you do not "officially" become certified.  

The joy I get when I get a glimpse into the natural world and the wildlife in it is the best therapy in the world -- not to mention sharing those unplanned moments with those you love.  This year, our whole family stood absolutely still to watch a mama owl feeding her young--it was a rare moment and one I will always cherish.  

Will you set up a wildlife friendly environment at your own home?  Please let me know in the comments.  

Tomorrow is Wednesday and the day we spend in the garden.  I will share with you the seeds I received from and discuss the plans I have to Plant a Row for the Hungry,  Hope to see you then.  

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp 

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