Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Making A Difference In Your Own Backyard

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

Making A Difference In Your Own Backyard

Raccoons, beavers, wild turkeys, squirrels, groundhogs, bobcats, birds, deer, geese, ducks, owls, hawks, great blue herons, night herons, opossums, foxes, river otters, turtles, and snakes make their homes in our backyard. That’s just the residents that I’ve seen. I’m sure there are more.

To put it mildly, our yard is critter friendly. When we built our home on a canal and next to a swampy area, I knew it would be wild, but not this wild. The grandchildren and visitors love it. We put in a sidewalk so I wouldn’t step on a snake walking down to the pier. My husband laughed at me, of course.

Last Christmas my sister and brother-in-law gave us one of the most cherished presents that we’ve ever gotten. They took the time to go online and complete the application for our yard to be registered as a wildlife habitat with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). I knew about the program, but I’d never taken the time to complete the process. We were thrilled with the whole idea.

When the application is completed and the $20 is sent in, you receive a personalized certificate that recognizes your yard as a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat. Along with that comes a free NWF membership which includes a year’s magazine subscription, 10% off catalog purchases, and a free subscription to the e-newsletter, HABITATS, full of tips and information on gardening and attracting wildlife.

In addition, the owner’s name is listed in NWF’s National registry of certified habitats in recognition of the contribution to the well- being of wildlife. You can also purchase a yard sign that shows your commitment to conserving wildlife. In completing the application you certify that you have elements from certain areas:
  • Food sources: native plants, seeds, nuts, berries, nectar
  • Water sources: birdbath, pond, stream
  • Places for cover: thickets, rock pile, birdhouses
  • Places to raise young: dense shrubs, vegetation, nesting box, pond
  • Sustainable Gardening: mulch, compost, chemical free fertilizer

Right now the organization is trying to reach a goal of 150,000 wildlife habitats by December 31, 2011. If you are interested in participating, go online to and do a search for the wildlife habitat application.

Putting yourself and your children in close contact with nature and wildlife brings immeasurable rewards. We used to have a fish pond in our backyard, and one summer our youngest daughter, age 10 at the time, decided to keep a wildlife journal. All of her daily observations and drawings were carefully entered into that journal. It was quite a learning experience, and it didn’t cost a thing.

PBS recently broadcasted a beautiful documentary on the life of John Muir, a Scottish born American (1838-1914), who was an activist for the preservation of wilderness areas. He founded the Sierra Club which today is one of the strongest conservation organizations. He spent his whole life studying the natural world, and he truly made a difference. You too can make a difference for wildlife right in your own backyard.
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