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Create a Backyard Habitat

by Ann Mason
The Challenge

Creating a backyard habitat is a way to invite back to your yard the native plant and wildlife species displaced when the land where you live was developed for human use. Loss of habitat caused by deforestation, water pollution, and residential and commercial development threatens wildlife biodiversity and is a leading cause for population decline of endangered species. You can help if you create a backyard wildlife habitat to share your space with native wildlife. Backyard habitat can be developed in even the smallest of spaces, and you can make small changes that will not only attract wildlife to your yard, but will ensure that you maintain a healthy yard for various species to live.

A beautifully manicured lawn may impress the neighbors, but it can be detrimental to wildlife struggling to survive in your area. Chances are that the four elements vital to wildlife--food, clean water, shelter, and a place to raise young--were altered or destroyed when your home was built. Creating a backyard ecosystem means providing these four necessary elements by reintroducing natural resources and native plant species to your yard that can support native wildlife. You may already have a few of these elements in place, and developing your backyard habitat will not be a major project. Or you may be ready to overhaul your backyard and want to incorporate these wildlife-friendly elements into your plan. Whatever the scope of your project, you should know that even a few small changes will attract wildlife to your yard.

Your backyard was not always a place for family barbeques and seemingly endless yard work. It was once a natural habitat and part of a larger ecosystem that sustained diverse plant and animal species for as long as you can probably imagine. By taking the time to create a backyard wildlife habitat, you will make wildlife feel at home again, and your family and friends will enjoy the increased presence of your natural neighbors.

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  • Step 1:  Consider whether or not you currently have a healthy yard.
  • Step 2: Make a list of what you already have in place, what you would like to improve, and what you will need to add to your yard. Create a plan for your new backyard habitat and put it into action as your time and budget permit. A backyard wildlife habitat uses native plant species. The National Audubon Society and Plant Native provide a list of regional resources to find out which plants are native to your area.
  • Step 3: If you choose, you can certify your wildlife garden or yard with the National Wildlife Federation. Once your yard becomes certified, you will receive a certificate from the National Wildlife Federation recognizing your backyard as a part of the National Registry of Backyard Wildlife Habitat sites and receive a sign to post in your yard. The National Wildlife Federation will also send a press release to your local paper to publicize your achievement and encourage other homeowners in your area to create backyard wildlife habitats.

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