The Backyard Wildlife Habitat program was started in 1973 by the National Wildlife Federation. The program was started as a way to encourage more natural environments for wildlife. The Backyard Wildlife Habitat program has been steadily growing since its early days.
Our own backyard is the best place to start learning and practicing environmentally friendly landscaping. It’s not all that difficult and it doesn’t have to be a large expensive project. Some backyards may only require adding a few shrubs, flowers and birdbaths. The rewards of having a natural environment in your own backyard and enjoying the wildlife and birds will be well worth the effort.
The National Wildlife Federation will recognize the work involved to make a backyard an environmentally friendly wildlife habitat. Once the five steps to become certified have been completed, you can become a member of the National Wildlife Federation. A personalized certificate will be sent to you stating that your yard is now a part of the National Registry of Backyard Wildlife Habitat sites.
They will also send a quarterly newsletter for helpful tips and a subscription for one year to the National Wildlife magazine. There is also a sign that can be ordered to post in your yard to proudly announce that your yard is dedicated to wildlife conservation and the environment. The National Wildlife Federation will also send a press release to your local newspaper to announce your certification, but only with your permission.
A yard becomes eligible for certification with five basic elements as required by the Wildlife Federation. Once these five steps have been met, you will fill out an application and pay a $15.00 processing fee. There are approximately more than 70,000 backyards certified at this time.
1: Understanding and commitment
A certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat will nurture wildlife year round. This is especially important now that more residential and commercial development is leaving birds and wildlife without homes. We can at least give them back a small portion of that environment by sharing our backyards in every season.
It is naturally better for the environment when the backyard becomes certified as a wildlife habitat. In order for this to happen, gardening methods will change to natural organic techniques. Harmful chemicals will be eliminated and water conservation will become more important.
2: Provide food
Food will need to be provided to sustain the wildlife in your backyard. Putting feeders out is one way to do this. Another way is by growing their food. After all, this is the way they would eat in their natural environment anyway. There are many plants that provide berries, seeds and nuts for the wildlife. The plants and earth will also be a host to insects that are food sources as well. This is another important reason to eliminate pesticides and harmful chemicals from your yard.
The National Wildlife Federation recommends the use of native plants in your yard. The trees, shrubs and flowers that grow naturally in your area of the country are naturally going to be more hardy. This means fewer problems for the plants and less maintenance for you. Plants that are not in their natural environment are much more susceptible to pests and diseases. The National Wildlife Federation website has a map with the top ten native plants listed for each area of the United States to help achieve this end.
3: Provide water
Water must be provided to have a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat. This can be as simple and inexpensive as a birdbath. Birdbaths will require cleaning and refilling every couple of days. During the warm months this will also keep mosquitoes from breeding in the water. The recommendation is to use hot soapy water or white vinegar mixed with water to scrub the birdbaths. Bleach is not recommended for use in birdbaths.
Another alternative for water is to have a small pond installed in your backyard. These do not have to be large or expensive either. There are various size pond kits with liners available for the do-it-yourself enthusiast. Water with movement will attract more birds and wildlife.
4: Provide cover and places to raise young
There must be places provided for wildlife to hide in order to feel safe in the backyard. These places can vary depending on the particular wildlife. Shrubs and trees will provide both cover and nesting places for some wildlife. Others would actually use dead trees for their natural homes and would benefit from birdhouses and nesting boxes.
Sometimes providing homes and cover for wildlife can be as simple as adding rocks or a log. There are many things that can be purchased or made at home that can provide cover or places to raise young in a backyard habitat. Birdhouses, butterfly houses, bat houses and homes for toads are readily available to buy. The National Wildlife Federation has information provided on their website to help with providing cover and nesting places.
5: Environmentally friendly gardening
This last step is equally important to becoming certified as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat. This last step will be the maintenance of the wonderful backyard sanctuary you have created. The National Wildlife Federation website is full of helpful information to help you achieve this goal.
The food, water and shelters have been provided for your backyard wildlife. Now it will be more important than ever to keep them safe and healthy by eliminated harmful chemicals. Conservation is a factor is having a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat. The National Wildlife Federation recommends collecting rainwater, reducing lawn areas and restoring native plants. Each of these will be beneficial to the environment and will help you achieve a wildlife habitat in your own backyard.