How to Create a Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Certifying a Backyard Wildlife Habitat

To get your backyard wildlife habitat certified, you'll need to talk to the folks at the National Wildlife Federation, who focus on a variety of conservati­on, advocacy and education initiatives. Once your backyard is able to provide a suitable environment for species survival, you can practice sustainable gardening. The process can be completed online; you simply fill out a straightforward checklist detailing what your backyard features. The categories include natural food sources, supplemental feeders, water, shelter and nesting provisions. There's also a list of sustainable gardening habits that include soil and water conservation, control of invasive species and organic practices.

After that, you'll answer a couple of general questions about your habitat's size and topography, and you're good to go. You can even order a sign for an additional fee if you want passersby to acknowledge your finished habitat. You might also be able to register your yard with some state agencies, such as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Texas Parks and Wildlife. Community wildlife habitats are another option for groups looking to greenify en masse.

Even after you've achieved certification, you might still find yourself pacing impatiently: Where's all the wildlife? Sometimes it takes a while to attract animals -- word might be slow to get out that your yard's open for business -- or you might have missed an important step. Some wrong turns include the use of inorganic mulch that doesn't attract bugs (the breakfast of many a bird) and birdbaths located in exposed areas. Birds like to make clandestine arrivals and quick getaways, so if they might steer clear if there aren't any handy places to hide. Butterflies could also hesitate to drop in if there aren't lots of sunny patches and nectar-rich flowers. It may look like clutter to you, but a pile of sticks or a heap of yard waste could be the perfect home for a mammal on the move. Even little tweaks in your gardening could fix your lack of fauna.

On the next page are lots of useful links for information on everything from frogs in danger to farms in skyscrapers -- perfect for someone looking to step up and start doing their part for the environment.

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  • "A Beginner's Guide to Butterfly Gardening." Bronx Green-Up, the New York Botanical Garden. (12/16/2008)
  • "Backyard Conservation Tip Sheet." Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. (12/16/2008)
  • Backyard Wildlife Habitat Web site. (12/16/2008)
  • "Greenscaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard." U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 6/2006. (12/16/2008)
  • "Habitat Fact Sheets Series." The University of Maine Cooperative Extension. (12/16/2008) AMvwweOmmITpoHo%2fFq9PF26OsPz66AHjroZr7pl7CE3%2bv6r2pQ%3d%3d
  • The National Wildlife Federation Web site. (12/16/2008)