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A brief introduction

Wildlife Federation

Backyard Wildlife Habitat Scheme

WPM Wildlife Habitat

WPM Nature initiatives

WPM’s nature habitat scheme ties in with the National Wildlife Federation’s Backyard
Wildlife Habitat program, which is described below along with some National Wildlife
Federation tips on making your patch wildlife-friendly.

          Most of this material is from the
NWF site and is adapted with permission.

initiative to get your members to create Backyard Wildlife Habitat sites sounds great.

David Mizejewski
Manager, Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program,
National Wildlife Federation, letter to Paul Harrison.

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Summary of the NWF scheme

           Back in April 1973, the
National Wildlife Federation (NWF) ran an article in National Wildlife magazine
encouraging people to landscape and garden in a more sustainable, natural way, with
wildlife in mind. The response was so overwhelming that NWF began the Backyard Wildlife
Habitat program that same year to educate people about the benefits of creating and
restoring natural landscapes.

          There are now more than 31,500
NWF certified habitats in the US and worldwide. They are mostly private habitats, but
there are an increasing number of habitats in workplaces, neighborhoods and communities.
There is also a special program for schools, and another for colleges and universities.

          Your habitat will be entered
into the National Registry of Backyard Wildlife Habitat sites. Participation in the
Backyard Wildlife Habitat program will help you save a place for wildlife right in your
own backyard and community, while enriching the natural world around you. You will learn
how to restore wildlife habitat in your own yard, balcony, workplace, or even your entire


  • You will receive an NWF certificate, suitable for framing, that designates your property
    as part of the NWF’s national registry of habitat sites.
  • You will be eligible to display an attractive yard sign.
  • If you wish, an announcement of your achievement will be sent by NWF to news media in
    your area, to help publicize your accomplishment and the habitat message.
  • You get a free lifetime subscription to the program’s official newsletter, Habitats.
  • You can get your own free personal gallery at the National Wildlife Federation website,
    to display photos of your habitat and its wildlife.



Four steps towards certifying

1. Assess Your Yard or Garden Space

Identify the habitat elements that already exist in your yard or garden space. You may
be already providing some habitat for wildlife! Native plants that provide food and cover
are the backbone of every habitat. Make a list of all the plants in your yard, including
everything from trees to wildflowers. Try to determine which of your plants are native to
your area and which are not. Which existing plants might provide food such as seeds,
fruits, nuts, and nectar? Which plants might provide safe cover or nesting places?
Determine how your yard might already provide water for wildlife. This could be in the
form of a pond, water garden, stream, vernal pool, or birdbath. Make a list of any
structures that provide potential sites to raise young, such as dead trees, rock walls, or
log piles. Finally, consider the physical features of your yard such as sun and wind
exposure and soil conditions.

2. Provide the Four Basic Elements

All species have four basic requirements for survival. These are food, water, cover,
and places to raise young.


Because native plants and wildlife have co-evolved, restoration or conservation of
native plant communities in your yard should be the main emphasis of your habitat project.
Select plants that provide natural foods such as fruits, seeds, nuts, and nectar
throughout the year. Native perennials and annuals provide nectar for both butterflies and
hummingbirds. Hummingbirds tend to visit tube-shaped, red flowers such as bee balm, wild
columbine, and our native honeysuckles. Butterflies prefer flat or clustered flowers, such
as purple coneflower, phlox, zinnias or buddleia. By choosing native plants suited to the
site conditions, little maintenance, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or additional
watering will be needed for the plants to thrive. This all adds up to time and cost
savings as well as a healthier habitat for you, your family, and wildlife. Supplemental
feeders can provide nectar for hummingbirds in the summer months and a variety of seed
(sunflower, niger, safflower, and millet) for other birds throughout the year. Bird
feeders should only be used as a supplement to natural food provided by native plants.


Wildlife needs water all the year round, for drinking, bathing, and breeding. Water can
be supplied in a birdbath, or a shallow dish. If you’re lucky enough to have a natural
pond, stream, vernal pool, or other wetland on your property, make sure to preserve or
restore it. A small pond provides water for drinking and bathing, as well as cover and
reproductive areas for small fish, insects, amphibians, and reptiles.


Include a good clump of evergreen trees and shrubs to provide year-round protective
cover from weather and predators. Juniper, hollies, and live oaks provide food as well as
cover. Plant deciduous shrubs to offer summer cover for nesting and escape from predators.
Rock, log, and mulch piles also offer good cover. Small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and
a great variety of insects and other small animals find homes in these structures.

Places to Raise Young

Evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs provide nesting areas for birds. Do you have
any dead or dying trees? If so, don’t reach for the chainsaw! Dying or dead trees are
excellent habitat features. They are excavated and used by woodpeckers, flying squirrels,
and a multitude of insects and cavity-nesting birds, such as owls, bluebirds, chickadees,
and wrens. Rabbits, shrews, mice, snakes, and salamanders lay their eggs or raise young
under boughs of plants as well as in the rock, log, or mulch piles. Nest boxes for birds
and bats can be placed in your backyard. Aquatic animals, such as frogs, toads, newts,
dragonflies, and other insects, deposit their eggs in ponds, vernal pools, and other
wetlands. Butterflies require "host" plants that serve as food sources for
butterflies during their larval (caterpillar) stage. Butterflies almost invariably lay
their eggs on the host plant preferred by the caterpillar, so make sure to include some of
the host plants in your habitat.

3. Practice Resource Conservation in your Own Backyard

Plant native plants suited to your region and do not plant any invasive exotics
(non-native plants). Establish a backyard wetland or drainage buffer area to filter storm
water and limit runoff. Capture roof rain water for use in planted areas. Use mulch to
conserve soil moisture and cut down on weeding time. Use a drip soaker hose instead of a
sprinkler if watering is needed to help your plants become established. Eliminate chemical
use in your yard. Control pests by organic means. Let nature take its course and encourage
beneficial insects (e.g., ladybug, praying mantis), birds, bats and other insect eaters.
Reduce or eliminate your lawn area to cut down on mowing, watering and general

4. Apply for certification

Application is easy and involves filling in a simple form
available on the Web
at:  or by mail from National Wildlife Federation Backyard
Wildlife Habitat Questions 11100 Wildlife Center Drive Reston, VA 20190-5362 Tel: (703)
The form covers what plants and wildlife the site has, what elements of food, water, cover
and places to raise young there are, and what you do to conserve resources. You need to
attach photos or a sketch of your habitat area. There is a one-off fee of $15, which also
covers any future home you might move to.

Taoist tips from a lazy gardener

        The idea of the Pan garden is to welcome
nature, care for it, revere it, and remove barriers between the natural world and our
lives. That’s what it is about. It’s the spirit of the garden that counts.

        Have places to sit and meditate, and watch
the birds, insects, and mammals. A bench, chair, hammock etc will make the garden much
more friendly for you.

        Neatness is optional. Some like it tidy.
Some don’t care. If the local fauna, flora, you, and fellow Pans find the garden welcoming
you indeed have a Pan Garden! Nature does not award points for neatness.

        Have fun. If it’s not fun don’t do it.
Remember nature will not abandon the plot just because you are lazy. It will just get more

        Avoid monoculture. The Chemlawn lawn is not
a Pan Garden. Minimize lawns. More lawns mean more work but less habitat. Just what you
don’t want.

        Weeds are not enemies. They are the just
plants in the wrong place. Don’t make your life a slave to weed destruction. Weed as
little as possible. Dandelions are as beautiful as grass.

        Go with the flow. Remember water flows
downhill. Use natural drainage patterns to determine which plantings go where.

        Let it happen. Don’t put in a walkway the
first spring. Instead seed with grass and let people’s feet wear a path in the lawn. The
worn grass will reveal where people like to walk. Then in the fall put the walkway where
the feet have worn a path. That’s going with the Tao. The garden will feel right to stroll

Walt Mandell