Your backyard is not only a place to enjoy the outdoors; it can also be a home and safe haven for local insects and birds. With just a few simple steps, you can turn your backyard, no matter the size, into a healthy, sustainable space for wildlife. Follow these tips to grow a certified wildlife habitat of your own.
What is a Wildlife Habitat?
A wildlife habitat is exactly what it sounds like: a safe space for animals to build a home. It gives them food, water, and shelter from the elements so they can rest and raise their young. As cities and buildings continue to spread and take over, it leaves diminishes space for birds and insects, but something as simple as your own backyard can be the perfect habitat.
I was surprised to learn just how easy it would be to build a backyard wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden For Wildlife Program. We already had a lot of the necessary elements, like trees and plants that were welcoming for birds and insects. In fact, our yard has been the perfect place for my kids to learn about animals. We recently discovered a bird nesting in one of our planters, which has been a great experience to follow as she cares for her eggs, and my kids are looking forward to seeing the babies when they hatch. Making our yard more wildlife friendly also led us to discover a nest of grasshopper eggs just as they were hatching. Watching the tiny insects hatch and hop away was a moment my kids won’t soon forget. They are always excited to go out in the yard now and see what other wildlife we might discover.
Why Get it Certified?
You can certainly grow a sustainable habitat in your yard without the need to get certified, but it does have some benefits that can help your whole neighborhood. When you get certified, you’ll get a sign to display in your yard, which can be a great conversation starter with neighbors, friends, and people passing by. I learned about the certification program when I spotted a sign in my friend’s yard and asked her about it, which inspired me to grow a certified wildlife habitat in my own backyard. Spreading the word helps your entire community build safe, sustainable habitats, which benefits both wildlife and people.
What Steps Should You Take?
The first thing you should do is download the checklist of things you need to have in place in your yard before you can be certified. Features on the list include food and water sources, places to take shelter and raise babies, and practicing sustainability in your landscaping. Check off the items you already have in your yard, and then you can see what steps you still need to take before you can apply for certification. After checking the list against my own backyard, I already had nearly everything in place except for a good water source. As a family we discussed what steps we could take to add water, like a birdbath or butterfly puddling area. Another thing we needed was some more bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers, so we planted some that my daughter had grown from seed indoors.
Once you’ve marked off all the items you need on the checklist, you’re ready to apply for certification. Click the link on the National Wildlife Federation’s website where you can complete the application and pay the fee. A few weeks later, you’ll receive a garden sign you can display in your yard. You will also get a one-year membership to the National Wildlife Federation with your fee.
Certifying your yard isn’t just a great way to protect the environment; it’s also a fun family project your kids can help with to learn the importance of caring for wildlife. Share your wildlife journey with us @TomsofMaine.
Image sources: Sher Warkentin
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