Austin achieves Community Wildlife Habitat certification

Austin demonstrated yesterday that it’s pretty easy being green. The National Wildlife Federation certified our city as a Community Wildlife Habitat. Austin is the largest U.S. city and the first in Texas to achieve certification.

As explained on the NWF’s website, “The Community Wildlife Habitat project is part of NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program. These projects benefit plants, wildlife, and people through the creation of sustainable landscapes that require little or no pesticides, fertilizers, or excess watering. Habitat landscapes can serve to beautify urban areas and give residents pride in their neighborhoods. A Community Wildlife Habitat project multiplies this positive effect by creating multiple habitat areas in backyards, schoolyards, corporate properties, community gardens, parkland and other spaces.”

Austin qualified as the largest Community Wildlife Habitat in the country with more than 900 residences certified by NWF as Wildlife Habitats, along with 15 businesses, 25 school grounds, 4 church grounds, and 14 parks. Two years ago, the Austin City Council set out to achieve NWF certification and began encouraging citizens to practice sustainable gardening, plant native Texas plants, and create food, shelter, and nesting sites for wildlife in their yards. City Hall led by example and became a Certified Wildlife Habitat too, right in the middle of downtown.

My former garden is one of the 900+ wildlife habitats that helped Austin meet its goal. The news of Austin’s certification inspired me to apply today for NWF certification for my new garden. It’s fairly easy to qualify. Your landscaping must provide food, water, and shelter for wildlife, examples of which include berries, nuts, leaves, sap, nectar, and bird feeders; a bird bath, pond, stream, and puddling area for butterflies; and trees, shrubs, and nesting boxes (it isn’t necessary to provide all of these to qualify). You pledge that you practice sustainable gardening methods like water conservation and reducing or eliminating chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and you send a $15 check, which supports the NWF and subscribes you to their very nice magazine, and that’s it. Your property is now recognized as helping to support local fauna. If you want to encourage neighbors to join in, you can spring for an NWF sign that proclaims your property to be a wildlife habitat.

You may think that making your yard friendly to wildlife won’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. But every pocket of refuge from chemicals and sterile landscapes of lawn that birds or beneficial insects can find invites them to stay in your community. They bring life to your garden and help make it more beautiful. When your neighbors see how many butterflies or birds your yard attracts, they may be inspired to make changes too. It adds up.

All material © 2006-2009 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

22 Responses

  1. Let us know how your certification goes!

    Texas Parks and Wildlife has something similar, with some great online resources. Their Texas Wildscapes program is a plan for restoring and protecting wildlife habitat that can be applied anywhere from an urban backyard to a huge ranch in the country.


  2. MJ says:

    So true about how little it takes. I’ve had two appartment gardens, 5 x 15 feet. They were each home to a toad and several anoles, and fed honey bees, bumble bees, and several types of butterflies, months, and other bugs. Once a deer came by for a tasty treat of red flowers…I think they were turks cap. Right next to my door. Right in the middle of the complex.

  3. Sheila says:

    Congratulations! What a great inspiration for other cities to follow.

  4. Robin says:

    Great post and way to go Austin! I’d love to be certified one of these days.

  5. That is the best news out of Texas since Molly Ivans held forth. I am most impressed.

  6. Monica says:

    My backyard is certified. I didn’t realize a whole city could get certification… I wonder if Ann Arbor has. And, again, I just love the Texas blue bonnets.

  7. More proof that Austin is one of the coolest places on the planet (metaphorically speaking). Congratulations, Austin!

  8. Nicole says:

    Inspiring post. I myself was surprised at the amount of wildlife that appeared in my garden-in a yard where nary a bird or butterfy used to be seen. Now there are tons of birds, butterflies, bees, moths, lizards etc.

  9. Town Mouse says:

    Very impressive! I’m starting to think differently about Texas ;->

  10. Jenny says:

    It’s so good to know there are more and more gardeners that are trying to make a difference one yard and garden at a time. Austin is a great place to live, but, shhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone. ;-)

  11. Gail says:

    Pam, Austin become even more attractive a place to live! This is exciting news for nature and residents of the city! The bluebells look wonderful. gail

  12. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Congratulations to Austin and all the Austin NWF certified gardeners. You did a good job. I am glad you got recognition for all your hard work.

  13. Sue says:

    Excellent scheme. I’m sure you’ll get it, and it’s great that Austin is encouraging it.

  14. Jenny says:

    Well done Austin. Keep them coming. I got my certification a couple of years ago. As you said it is a pretty easy process. We always had lots of wildlife out here but we have done a great job of improving the life of snakes and lizards (the ever growing brush pile) David’s rock walls and the compost pile where cotton rats have taken residence! Wrens are nesting here once again.

  15. Brenda Kula says:

    Yep, got mine certified last year. Now I see my NWF sign posted on the tree through rain-streaked windows. Rained for four days. About to go crazy in here.

  16. Lori says:

    I need to get some kind of water source, and then I’m good to go. I think I found a bird bath that would work with all of my blue pots and things at HEB, of all places. :)

  17. irena says:

    congratulations austin! you are an inspiration to cities everywhere. I believe there’s a similar backyard certification program up here in Toronto. I am definitely looking into it. way to go!

  18. vbdb says:

    To prove your point of how little is required, mine’s certified, too. For Austin residents, wanted to tell you that we have scheduled a 2 hour seminar taught by a Travis County master gardener on what’s required to get wildlife habitat certification. It’ll be presented on May 2, 2009 at the Hampton Branch of Austin Public Libraries from 10a to 12noon.

  19. Pam, I think I’ll do it. I saved the link to the MWF. Congrats to your great city for achieving this.~~Dee

  20. Bluestem says:

    Congratulations to Austin! Austin is always a Texas leader in the green movement. Plano is helping to green up North Texas, but most everyone still loves their beautiful lawns.

    I finally submitted my application for the Best of Texas Backyard Habitat certification last week. For $30 you get certified with Texas Parks and Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation.

  21. Bonnie says:

    Yea! I certified mine as well. It’s so fun to see positive news from a municipality effort like this.