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Turn your Garden into a Wildlife Habitat

articles_2011_cardinal_habitatcertificationEver noticed a sign that says “Certified Wildlife Habitat Backyard”? It means the homeowners are providing the essentials for wildlife: food, a reliable source of water, cover (like a rock pile), and places to raise young (like large shrubs or a water garden). They’ve also agreed to follow healthy, sustainable gardening practices like mulching and reducing the use of chemicals. Many gardeners are already doing these things and simply go online to apply for certification. Easy! The $15 fee includes a certificate, a year’s membership in the National Wildlife Federation, and their excellent magazine. The information in the application and elsewhere on the website is doing a lot to educate homeowners across the country.

Why Certify Your Backyard?

  • You’ll see more birds, butterflies, frogs, and turtles.
  • You and your whole family will learn more about gardening by reading the quarterly Habitats Newsletter you’ll receive.
  • Certification includes one year membership in the National Wildlife Federation, including their award-winning National Wildlife Magazine.
  • It’ll show your support for creating a more nature-friendly world right here.
  • It’ll teach kids about nature and gardening in fun ways.

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Community Certification

It’s exciting when you certify your own backyard and it’s even more exciting when your whole community joins in! To win habitat certification as a community, a certain number of backyards must be certified, based on the total population. In addition, a certain number of public places must become wildlife-friendly — like schoolyards, churchyards and parks.

More points toward community certification can be won by holding events like native plant sales or stream clean-ups or having “regular articles in a local paper about the project,” something I performed for Takoma Park’s certification campaign writing about wildlife for the Voice Newspapers. Points are also awarded for having a habitat website with news and lots of resources to help in the process.  Here on the Behnkes blog I bragged on Takoma Park’s success in becoming the first certified wildlife-habitat community in Maryland.

Why Have your Community Certified as a Habitat?

  • Residents will meet like-minded neighbors who share their love of wildlife and nature.
  • It’ll improve the watershed through reduced toxic run-off.
  • It’ll help reduce carbon emissions related to climate change.
  • We’ll all learn more about living more lightly on Earth.
  • Nearby individual habitats can combine to create a wildlife corridor.

by Susan Harris

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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