We often picture wildlife habitat as, well, wild: forests, rivers, and mountain peaks.  However, the green spaces around our homes also provide important wildlife habitat for songbirds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators, as well as small mammals, frogs, snakes and bats. As NWF’s AmeriCorps member Darcy McKinley Lester describes in the Montana Public Radio’s Field Note; it’s easy to take action to help our wild neighbors.

Darcy McKinley Lester
NWF’s Wildlife Habitat and Sustainability Educator Darcy McKinley Lester visits the 8th Street Pocket Park, one of the certified wildlife habitats in Missoula, MT. Photo by Steve Woodruff
National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program recognizes gardens that provide the essential elements of habitat as Certified Wildlife Habitats, and encourages entire communities to work together to engage in larger-scale habitat restoration projects in schoolyards, parks and other shared spaces. Over 83 communities in 29 states have been recognized as Certified Community Wildlife Habitats.

Now, Montana is looking to get in on the wildlife habitat action.  NWF’s Missoula staff is working with diverse partners to promote wildlife-friendly gardening and help people connect with nature. We are especially excited about our partnership with the City of Missoula. In March, Mayor John Engen proclaimed “Missoula Wildlife Week” and endorsed the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative, which aims to put Missoula on the map as the first NWF Certified Community Wildlife Habitat in Montana. Parks and Recreation is working towards transforming Missoula open spaces into wildlife-friendly parks, and even partnered with NWF volunteers to re-plant a local park with native grasses.

An NWF volunteer works to replant a City of Missoula with native grasses, which will require less intensive watering and provide habitat for native wildlife.
An NWF volunteer works to replant a City of Missoula park with native grasses, which will require less intensive watering and provide habitat for native wildlife. Photo by Darcy McKinley Lester
Missoula Office of Neighborhoods promotes wildlife-friendly gardening by offering training and grants for neighborhood teams that “adopt a traffic-calming circle” and incorporate key habitat elements. In June, City employees will receive a financial reward for certifying their home gardens as wildlife habitats.

In addition to working with the City of Missoula, NWF is collaborating with partner organizations to create volunteer opportunities so that community members can learn how they can transform their community and homes into a haven not just for people, but wildlife as well.  Through tabling at events like WildFest, Wildlife Extravaganza, and UnPlug and Play, NWF has helped hundreds of people realize that habitat potential of their own backyard.  Montana and the Northern Rockies are truly wild places, and not just outside the cities.

Learn more about the benefits of gardening for wildlife in this Seattle Times article.

Certify Your Wildlife GardenHave the essential elements (food source, water source, cover, and places to raise young) for a wildlife habitat? Then certify your garden or green space today!