It’s easy to bemoan lost habitat for wildlife, especially here in the Willamette Valley where our major export is lawns and more lawns. But there’s a simple way to help: turn your backyard into wildlife habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation.
Only a few ingredients are needed: a food source, such as native plants, seeds, berries, or nectar; a water source such as a birdbath, stream, or pond; cover provided by mature trees or a brush pile; and a nesting box, dense vegetation, or other place for wildlife to raise their young. These four components will attract wildlife to a yard and encourage greater natural diversity. If the property you restore provides habitat for an endangered or threatened species, you also might be eligible for habitat restoration tax credits, thanks to the Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2007.
The size of your yard doesn’t matter too much—even a balcony can provide habitat for a variety of critters, given the right layout. A birdhouse, birdbath, and a patch of native plants can provide many elements that native wildlife need to survive. As for homeowners’ associations, they may not enjoy seeing large brush piles on your property, but many of them already suggest planting native species, which can provide both food and cover. A bird house or other nesting box and a birdbath will complete the picture.
Better yet, encourage your whole community to join in. The National Wildlife Federation also has a Community Wildlife Habitat program in which entire neighborhoods can participate. This helps combat habitat fragmentation, too.
The best part? Hearing different types of birdsong in your backyard—or perhaps that time you glimpsed a fisher or a fox.
For more information or to get your backyard certified, visit www.nwf.org/backyard.
By Jen Matteis