2011-03-03 / Local & State

Help Protect Wildlife In Your Own Backyard

America has a long history of protecting its wildlife heritage. From the endangered bald eagle in the 1970s to the Kemps Ridley turtle threatened by the 2010 Gulf oil spill, Americans have shown a remarkable ability to rally and rescue species and the habitats they need to survive.

But families needn’t travel to distant locations to safeguard wildlife. There are many things you can do in your backyard to help local wildlife like birds, butterflies, squirrels and others.

Spearheading conservation on both local and national levels through the decades has been the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. The NWF has played major roles in reviving the country’s diminishing gray wolf population, purchasing land where grizzly bears, wolves and bison can roam freely, and leading efforts to reduce global warming to protect Arctic polar bears.

Like many American movements, the NWF’s efforts have been successful because of the commitment of individuals to help something they love, in this case our nation’s wildlife. For example, thousands of wildlife enthusiasts have created certified wildlife habitats in their own backyards.

Here’s what you can do in your backyard to create such a habitat:

Food Sources: Planting native plants or hanging feeders for butterflies, hummingbirds and squirrels, are easy ways to make your habitat a five-star restaurant for wildlife. You can also stock feeders and incorporate plants with nuts, berries, nectar, suet, or fruits, depending on the wildlife native to your area.

Water Source: Wildlife need sources of clean water for drinking, bathing and reproduction. You will need one water source in your wildlife habitat, such as a natural pond, lake, river or spring, or a human-made feature such as a bird bath, butterfly puddling area or rain garden.

Cover: Wildlife need places to hide to feel safe from people, predators and weather. Native vegetation is a perfect cover for terrestrial wildlife, while structures such as birdhouses can attract specific bird species. A pond can double as a water source and home for fish and amphibians.

Places to Raise Young: Creating a wildlife habitat is about creating a place for the entire life-cycle of a species, from courtship to mating to raising offspring. Many habitat features that serve as cover can double as locations where wildlife can raise their young.

Sustainable Gardening: Use natural mulch which can conserve water and cut down on weeds. Reduce chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These and other environmentally friendly practices will be more welcoming to wildlife and better for the planet.

Once you’ve created your habitat, you can have it certified by the National Wildlife Federation at www.nwf.org/GardenForWild life, which offers tips to create habitats that will welcome local wildlife. And in honor of the organization’s 75th anniversary, NWF will plant a tree for every yard certified in 2011.

So get started! There’s no time to lose when protecting America’s wildlife for generations to come.

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