By Carolyn Greene| Special to The Sun — It’s not often we humans can do something to actually improve natural habitat and be able to brag a little to our neighbors for doing so. But through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) “Certified Wildlife Habitat” program, your home can be recognized as natural habitat if you provide food, water and cover, and use sustainable gardening practices. Even residents of apartments, condos and mobile homes can qualify.
We are well aware even in our lifetimes of the reduction in wildlife quantity and diversity locally and on a global scale, due to the needs and wants of our human population and the resulting destruction of habitat that wildlife needs for food, water, shelter and places to raise offspring.
The NWF certification program goal is to foster habitat gardening as a step towards replenishing resources for wildlife both locally and along migratory corridors that are critical to a species’ survival.
Imagine you are a monarch butterfly or robin, gray squirrel or gray fox, and take a walk right outside your home. What would you need to survive? Then as the human occupant of that same habitat, what could you do to provide these needs and to encourage wildlife right outside your window?
Information about the NWF certification process is available at Nwf.org/garden-for-wildlife/certify.aspx. The online application tool ($20 fee) will ask you to confirm that you provide food, water, cover, places to raise young and use sustainable practices. You may already be providing most of these enhancements.
Here are the categories and requirements:
Food — does your habitat provide seeds, berries, nectar, fruit, sap, pollen, or even leaves and twigs for nourishing wildlife?
Water — is there a water source, such as a pond, fountain or birdbath?
Cover and places to raise young — do you have at least two places for wildlife to find shelter from the weather and from predators, such as mature trees, dense shrubs, a rock pile or wall, or nest box?
Sustainable practices – are you capturing and reusing rainwater, planting water-wise landscaping, applying mulch, using organic and integrated pest management practices and limiting destructive non-native plant and animal species (especially keeping cats indoors)?
It’s easy to qualify. So where do the bragging rights come in? For $30, you can purchase a 9” x12” full-color distinctive sign (or flag) to post in your yard that tells your neighbors, your community, (and hopefully even your local wildlife), that you are providing the essential elements needed for healthy and sustainable wildlife habitats.
But the greatest reward will be your enjoyment in observing increased wildlife in your garden and knowing that you are an essential part of their being able to survive and thrive.
Carolyn Greene of Oakmont is a Certified California Naturalist.