Dave Wasmuth, Sabina Ernst, Anne Stires, Jose German and many National Wildlife Federation volunteers in Montclair, New Jersey are true wildlife rock stars.

Over the course of six years, these wildlife rock stars–and yes, volunteers–got more than 180 Montclair homes (30 over just the last year), 10 schools, five community gardens or parks, five businesses, three churches and two synagogues to become Certified Wildlife Habitat® sites.

Sabina Ernst tells the Montclair story better than anyone:


Sabina: “I live in Montclair, New Jersey, and I have been part of the habitat team here since pretty much the beginning. I heard about Dave Wasmuth through a friend and started to get interested in native plants. It was something that really interested me because it seems very sustainable and the right model to follow….The whole town is represented not just one cluster…. It is a good thing to do.  It has been really fun. It feels like we have done a really good thing for Montclair and for the Earth.”

Certified Habitats bring welcomed visitors (photo taken in front of Sabrina's front yard)

The Montclair volunteers also made this great website to spread the good news, and organize the community effort.

New Jersey’s First Community Wildlife Habitat

With the community pulling together for wildlife like never before, Montclair has become New Jersey’s first certified Community Wildlife Habitat and the 38th certified community in the nation.

This means that residents, businesses, places of worship and others are providing the basics for desired wildlife – food, water, cover, and places to raise youngwhile helping the environment by using native plants, composting, eliminating pesticide use, and conserving water.

Dave and Jose Proud Gardeners and Community Leaders

Backyard Habitat Tour

On July 11, I took advantage of their annual “Backyard Habitat Tour,” where Montclair residents opened up their backyards for visitors to see the amazing things they have done to bring nature to their backyards. These National Wildlife Federation volunteers are working every day to improve their community and help wildlife.

It was great meeting Dave Wasmuth who has led the charge in Montclair. His gardens were a great mix of flowers, native plants and vegetables.

I also got to meet Jose German who, along with Dave, made their home a special place. Jose was really inspirational to me. He left his job as an accountant to form www.greenharmonynow.com, a landscaping business that helps businesses and homeowners choose wildlife friendly landscaping.

Dave and Jose also showed me how Montclair planted some trees along their road. Many of the trees died but the one planted in Dave and Jose’s yard is thriving. I think they are on to something!

Wildlife Habitat Makes Homes and Communities a Special Place

Sabina has lead the charge to not only make her yard wildlife-friendly but also she has worked with her local schools where her children attend school to certify them in NWF’s Schoolyard Habitat program. She also told me that she has seen a Cooper Hawk in her backyard, along with the cute rabbit that I saw.

Spreading the Love for Wildlife

Dave, Jose, Sabina and others are not just thinking about Montclair. They are reaching out to other neighboring towns as well.

Anne Stires is from down the road in Verona, and she is so excited by this project that she joined the Montclair Habitat Team and helped out the Montclair volunteers with their event. Anne is also the President of the Hilltop Conservancy in Verona, which is responsible for protecting and restoring one of the last large tracks of undeveloped land in this area.

All this inspiration makes me see how Dave, Jose and Sabina’s efforts can be multiplied by others across New Jersey.

We could create a large “corridor” of backyard, school, and community habitats across New Jersey. Of course, we need to protect our critical landscapes like the New Jersey Highlands, but it all starts in the home or in this case in the backyard.

Learn more about how to turn your garden or yard into a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat® site