Map Your Garden for Wildlife Efforts – One Yard at a Time!

Habitat in Spring time. Photo Credit: Habitat Network, source Richard Barry

This National Wildlife Federation, Certified Wildlife Habitat® on Clark Road, Essex County, MA provides habitat through the seasons. Key elements of habitat are mapped on the Habitat Network.

Habitat in Fall time. Photo Credit: Habitat Network, source Richard Barry

Approximately 1/3 of the United States’ populated urban landscapes are comprised of residential properties and developments. Increased pavement and buildings contribute to rapidly declining nectar and forage sources for pollinators, less tree cover and nesting sites for birds and diminished fresh water sources for all wildlife.

However, when property owners design and plant to provide the essential elements of habitat, these properties can create habitat networks of the resources essential for many migratory wildlife species.

Since 1973, property owners who have a Certified Wildlife Habitat® with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) have witnessed these connections first hand. In fact, research comparing certified yards with nearby non certified properties confirm —

“Certified Wildlife properties provide evidence of more abundant and higher quality wildlife habitat relative to non-certified properties. (Drake and Widows, 2014)

What if we could use a planning tool and map the continuum of wildlife resources planted across these yards?

Photo credit: Jennifer Tribou

The Habitat Network and the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife Program™ have partnered to encourage our respective program participants to do just that!

Join us in mapping your wildlife gardening efforts through the world’s first interactive citizen scientist social network— The Habitat Network, a partnership between Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Nature Conservancy, lets participants track their impact across the country by literally drawing maps of their backyards, parks, farms, favorite birding locations, schools, and gardens.

Benefits of Mapping your Habitat

  1. The mapping process provides the opportunity to study and map your property, and in the end, provides a “bird’s eye view” of your work. This helps visualize your property, and to see where there is opportunity to improve habitat.  A summary of habitat types on the property is also provided.

    Habitat Network. Analyzing Map

  2. The planning tool can be used after a map is created to help guide the user to set personal goals for their property. The map is analyzed and habitat creation actions are suggested to the user based on their personal goals for their property
  3. Connect and learn from others in the Habitat Network groups and forum. Join the NWF Garden for Wildlife group.
  4. Contribute to science by mapping and participate in a citizen science program. The data from your map/property will be used with the thousands of other participants to help answer some of the big ecological questions we have about populations and residential properties. This has the potential to inform planning and development in the future.

Working together Habitat Network and the National Wildlife Federation, Garden for Wildlife™ program are utilizing this platform to promote greater synergy around wildlife gardening, accelerating the pace of wildlife habitat creation by connecting the work of like-minded individuals participating in both programs. The result could be a larger conservation community focused on sharing strategies, maps, and success stories.

Examples of Mapped Habitats

Habitat Network map of Birdsong Café showing on e-bird and planning goals recent bird sightings.

Clark Road Certified Wildlife property on the Habitat Network,

Habitat Network participants, are able to use the mapping tool, habitat overview function to assess percentages of turf, pavement vs. those of native plant and permeable landscape to set goals for wildlife and ecosystem improvements for their properties over time.

For example, the Barry residence pictured above, is a model for the potential our suburban properties have to provide native habitat for wildlife. On less than a half-acre plot, this family has pulled up their turf grass and replaced it with native perennials, native shrubs, and a vegetable garden to feed their family. All practices were done using zero fertilizers and pesticides. Now that the project is several years old, many of the plants are self-seeding, leaving yard maintenance to a minimum. Their list of wildlife, including birds and pollinators, is long–a Great Blue heron visited their pond.

Aldea Santa Fe Community mapped on the Habitat Network

Habitat Network is a citizen science project designed to cultivate a richer understanding of wildlife habitat, for both professional scientists and people concerned with their local environments.  To that end, entire communities are utilizing the Habitat Network platform.

The Aldea Santa Fe, New Mexico, NWF Community Wildlife Habitat uses the Habitat Network to map the individual habitats within the community. Don Wilson, community leader says, the Habitat Network map is useful to give a snapshot of habitat areas when giving community briefings. The community has also mapped 70 juniper titmouse bird houses as part of three to five year monitoring project.

This recognition and mapping will help participants have a baseline and visual for impact they are making for wildlife and place to track improvements, and increase of wildlife.

How to get started

This spring, The National Wildlife Federation and Habitat Network are encouraging its respective participants to:

  • Be recognized as Certified Wildlife Habitat®
  • Map their yards on Habitat Network
  • Join the Garden for Wildlife group on Habitat Network and share their learning, best practices and joy of wildlife observations.

Garden for Wildlife Network

This recognition and mapping will help participants have a baseline and visual for impact they are making for wildlife and place to track improvements, and increase of wildlife. Check out this and other Certified Wildlife Habitat® Featured Sites and how they are using Habitat Network to map there properties.

National Wildlife Federation and the Habitat Network have high hopes that their combined efforts are a win-win.  Tracking Certified Wildlife Habitats®, sharing learning and results in the NWF, Garden for Wildlife Group will provide a concrete way to see results, e.g. increased acres, diverse combinations of native plants, water conservation practices. The collaboration will expand Habitat Network offerings for learning, via shared practices and provide national and local groups unique forms to organize for much greater impact.

Get Started!

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