Did you know you can certify your own yard as wildlife habitat? Even the smallest space, like an apartment balcony, can become a haven for little creatures. Whether it’s your home, school, church, farm, community park, or other location that you have been improving for wildlife, the National Wildlife Federation has a great program that allows you to designate your space as wildlife habitat.
Native plants frame boulders and stone steps in this wildlife friendly yard. Photo by montanaraven on flickr. Creative Common license.
A beautifully design certified habitat. Photo by stewickie on flickr. Creative Common license.[divider_padding]
By certifying your outdoor space as habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, you can spread the word about wildlife habitat in your area. NWF is trying to reach 150,000 certified habitats across the country, and they already have about 140,000 registered. By registering, you are supporting their efforts and you also receive a year membership to NWF.
Sometimes wildlife habitat can look a bit “messy”, compared to many of the traditional landscape styles we are used to. The traditional landscape of sweeping green lawns (or gravel in much of Arizona) and neatly manicured hedges is on its way out. More and more people are beginning to shift their perception of what is beautiful to a more natural and less manicured landscape. By certifying your more natural looking yard and placing a “certified wildlife habitat” sign where neighbors can see it, you are helping to change the perception of what is beautiful.
A Tucson residence with a lot of understory cover. Photo by teofilo on flickr. Creative Common license.
This man-made stream at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson is habitat to some of Arizona’s endangered native fish.
When people see that there is a good reason your yard looks the way it does and start to notice birds, butterflies, and other fun critters around, they may just get inspired to transform their own yard. I’ve seen it before. It’s contagious. One neighbor tears out their lawn and replaces it with native plants, and other neighbors want to join in the fun. Before you know it, a large portion of your neighborhood is habitat, making the benefits to wildlife even better.
If you want to get started transforming your yard, here are the main elements you will need to include:
- Food Sources: Native plants are a great source of food for wildlife. Choose plants that provide seeds, berries, and nectar. You can also supplement food sources with birdseed, nuts, fruit, and suet, however, native plant based food sources are the best.
- Water Sources: Since water is especially scarce in Arizona, wildlife will come from all around for even the smallest water source. A small pond, a birdbath, a stream, a water garden, or damp mud for butterflies to puddle are a few water sources that will attract wildlife.
- Cover: Native plants, lots of understory cover (lower growing vegetation), rock and wood piles, and birdhouses are just a few of the elements that provide food and shelter for wildlife and will turn a yard into a haven.
- Places to Raise Young: Many of the elements associated with cover also provide places to raise young. Mature trees, dead trees and snags, host plants for caterpillars, and thorny plants are just a few elements that will provide shelter for raising young.
Wildflowers (and trucks) outside of the Indiana Wildlife Federation building. Photo by KimManleyOrt on flickr. Creative Common license.[divider_padding]
Here’s one Tucson success story worth reading about! Sweetwater Community Turns Backyards Into Wildlife Habitat