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Sunday, December 15

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Certify your garden to fight habitat loss

When you think of habitat loss, you tend to imagine rainforests or coral reefs on the other side of the world. While those habitats are certainly struggling, the forests, plains, rivers and oceans around the United States aren’t immune to habitat loss either. Building new homes, farms and roads for humans takes away habitats from our native animals, and many small species like birds, bees and amphibians are being impacted more than we realize.

Since we are partially responsible for taking away their habitat, it only makes sense that we give our little wild neighbors a helping hand. We can do this by turning our yards, gardens or balconies into greenspaces, and a great way to do this is by following a checklist from The National Wildlife Federation. This checklist will help you meet a few animal-friendly requirements, and once completed, you can apply to certify your garden as an official Certified Wildlife Habitat!

First on the checklist, can animals find food around your home? Your home must have at least three of the following: plants that produce either berries, nectar, edible foliage, nuts, fruits, sap or pollen, or you have a bird feeder, hummingbird feeder, squirrel feeder or butterfly feeder. Next, do you have at least one source of water around your home? This includes a birdbath, a man-made pond or rain garden, or you live next to a stream, river, lake or another body of water.

Also, are there covered areas around your home that can provide shelter for animals to avoid bad weather or predators? The National Wildlife Federation asks that you have at least two of: a wooded area, evergreen trees, dense shrubs, a bramble patch, ground cover, a log pile, a rock pile or rock wall, a burrow or cave, or something like a man-made roosting box or pond.

Similarly, do you have areas around your home where wildlife can mate and raise young? This includes mature trees, dead trees or snags, dense shrubs, a burrow or cave, plants for caterpillars or you live next to a meadow or wetland. The National Wildlife Federation asks that you have at least two of those out of that list as well.

And last, but most important, do you use sustainable practices around your home? You must at least do two of water and soil conservation, controlling exotic species or organic practices. Meeting the water and soil conservation requirement means you do something like: capturing rain water from your roof to reuse, you have water-wise landscaping, you use a drip or soaker hose for irrigation, or you limit your water use. Controlling exotic species can be attained by removing non-native plants and planting only native plants, or you remove non-native animals with careful pest management (this also includes your pets that may harm the native wildlife). And you can meet the organic practices requirement by composting or simply eliminating hazardous chemical pesticides from around your home.

Once you complete this checklist, you can officially apply to have your greenspace become a Certified Wildlife Habitat. While it’s great to have the recognition, the real reward is making your home a welcoming place for species like bees, birds and butterflies and knowing that you are giving back to nature.

(Photo by Gabe Andrle)

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl