The Best 10 Minutes I Spent this Month
(or, How I Certified my Yard as a Wildlife Habitat)

By Laura Loy
December 2013

When my family moved to Los Alamos, having a yard was important to us. We had spent a lot of time living in cities, and we were yearning for a quiet yard to enjoy. We hoped we would see some wildlife in it, too. My husband and daughter are very much into birding, so they immediately set about adorning the yard with bird feeders, suet and the like. I myself wanted a pond with a waterfall, as I especially enjoy the calming sound of running water. Ours is a more mature yard, so we already had established pine trees, shrubs and fruit trees. We were loving our yard!

It never occurred to me, though, that in doing these simple things that enabled us to enjoy the yard ourselves, we were actually creating an important habitat for our local wildlife. We have birds, bunnies, squirrels and deer that make their way into our yard. When we rented one of the PEEC Critter Cams recently, we were surprised to learn we also have visits from foxes and raccoons at night!

Recently I learned that my yard could be a Certified Wildlife Habitat. While I originally thought it would take a lot of time, I came to learn that it's actually really quick and easy!

Hence the title of this article: "The Best 10 Minutes I Spent this Month". I decided to sit down one day with a pamphlet I had picked up at PEEC, and I brought it out at the dinner table. I read the four requirements to my daughter, asking her if she thought we met them. The requirements were to provide the following:

  1. A minimum of 3 food sources, either natural or supplemental. Check! We have seeds, fruit and bird feeders. We actually could have checked off 6 things on the list, but we stopped at the required 3.
  2. At least 1 water source. Yup, we have our pond! (But actually a birdbath or even a saucer full of water would fulfill the requirement, and it doesn't even have to be a year-round water source).
  3. At least 2 places for cover. We actually could have checked off at least 3, but we went with evergreens and a log pile.
  4. At least 2 places to raise young. This seemed to me like it would be a difficult one, but not so! We have mature trees and shrubs, so we meet the requirement.

At this point, my daughter was getting really into it, so we went online and filled out the form. We paid $20, and the whole thing (including going through the checklist) only took 10 minutes. NWF sign

So what do we get for our time and money spent? We get the pride and satisfaction of doing something good for our community and our wildlife, and the warm fuzzies from our $20 application fee going toward supporting the National Wildlife Federation. Oh, we also get a cool certificate that we can frame, and we become a member of the National Wildlife Federation. We will receive National Wildlife Magazine and get a 10% discount on all NWF merchandise. Bonus!

In learning about all this, what I have discovered is that I am part of a larger effort by the community of Los Alamos to become a Community Wildlife Habitat. What that means is that Los Alamos County will need to have 100 yards, 2 schools, and 3 public places certified. It seems there has been a surge in interest lately, as another 15 or so yards in Los Alamos have been certified recently, putting Los Alamos at 78 certified yards (as of December 2013). PEEC's wildlife habitat counts as a public place. So, our community is close to reaching its goal.

What can you do to help Los Alamos become a Community Wildlife Habitat? First and foremost, you can certify your yard. And when I say yard, I mean that in a very loose sense - believe it or not, even a balcony qualifies! Businesses and schools can certify their locations, too. In reality, you probably already meet the requirements, you would simply need to fill out the form and pay the $20 application fee.

The other way in which you can help is by joining the cause. By volunteering any amount of time that you can spare, you can help to spread the word about this exciting project. You can also help coordinate canyon clean ups, clear invasive weeds out of empty lots, help with kids activities, hold plant sales etc.

So why not jump on the bandwagon? It's easy and fun! To get started, visit the NWF Certify Your Wildlife Garden page, visit PEEC's Community Wildlife Habitat page, or contact PEEC for more information. You can come see PEEC's habitat as an example; it has a birdbath, brush pile, feeders and birdhouses, along with trees and shrubs. Happy certifying!

Laura Loy is a staff member at PEEC.


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