First Certified Wildlife Habitat Community

By Laura Loy

For two years, a group of Los Alamos citizens have been working to secure an important designation from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) for the county of Los Alamos. Earlier this year, the good news came from the national organization that Los Alamos would be the first community in New Mexico and only the 85th in the nation to receive this prestigious title. To acknowledge this monumental award for Los Alamos, the NWF will send representative Luisa Grant to PEEC’s Earth Day Festival on April 23, where a short ceremony at 10:15 a.m. will celebrate the achievement.

The NWF Community Wildlife Habitat program was started in 1997, as a framework in which citizen leaders are able to protect wildlife habitats in their communities. With the establishment of cities and towns around the country, we have encroached upon the habitats that once belonged exclusively to the local wildlife. With just a little thought and action, we can maintain those habitats so as to coexist with local wildlife.

Certified habitats can be homes, schools, businesses, public areas, or other community buildings. To become certified, they must provide the four basic elements that all wildlife need: food, water, cover, and places to raise young.

To date, Los Alamos has 152 certified habitats. These include a number of private residences and business or residential complexes, as well as the Los Alamos Master Gardeners’ Demonstration Garden, the Los Alamos Nature Center, the Los Alamos Cooperative Market, Los Alamos County parks, the Mary Deal Building, Reel Deal Theater, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church. Several public schools have also certified, including Mountain and Barranca Elementary Schools as well as the Middle School.

In order to become certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat, Los Alamos had to meet a number of criteria, including reaching the minimum number of certified habitats in various categories, as well as providing community education and outreach on the topic. Los Alamos was able to receive the designation in a record two years. It typically takes a community five to seven years to become certified.

“It is a true honor for us that Luisa Grant from NWF, with whom our committee has worked closely over the last two years, will be able to personally attend the ceremony on April 23,” said Certified Wildlife Habitat committee member Selvi Viswanathan. “We encourage the public to attend as well, to celebrate the successful awarding of Community Wildlife Habitat to Los Alamos, which was made possible by our own citizens.”

Viswanathan added that receiving the designation does not mean that the committee’s efforts are finished. It will continue encouraging residents, businesses, and organizations to certify their properties, and the committee will continue to bring educational and outreach opportunities to Los Alamos.

To find out more about the ceremony or to learn how to certify a property, contact Selvi Viswanathan at hariselvi@juno.com.

Article published by the Los Alamos Monitor in the Earth Day newspaper insert.