Garden for Wildlife Movement Celebrates Forty-Five Years of Helping Local Wildlife

With more than 7 million people participating across the country, National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife movement is the nation’s longest-running and largest effort dedicated to helping wildlife locally.

The initiative reconnects our neighborhoods, towns, and cities back to the country’s amazing wild spaces. Garden for Wildlife encourages Americans to plant native plants – from wildflowers to trees – and to provide natural sources of food, water, cover, and places to raise young for wildlife in their backyards and communities.

Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, Garden for Wildlife has grown to encompass more than 2.5 million acres of Certified Wildlife Habitat® backyards, gardens, fields, and community spaces across the United States that support and protect wildlife including birds, bees, butterflies, and other amazing animals.

The Garden for Wildlife program has been featured on television, in books, and praised by celebrities over its 45 years. View the wonderful timeline of the programs milestones and accomplishments, and learn more about the program’s real impact on wildlife conservation.

A male mountain bluebird prepares to feed his babies a grasshopper in a Wyoming wildlife garden. Photo by Don Getty via NWF Photo Contest.

“Seeing wildlife in our yards is a great indicator of the health of the local environment. In fact, the ongoing health of our communities is directly linked to the health of the wildlife with which we share our backyards, towns, and cities. Quite literally, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, depends on healthy local wildlife and the natural spaces where they live,” says Mary Phillips, Senior Director of Garden for Wildlife. “When you make simple changes to your outdoor spaces – from whole landscaped areas to a few planters – you are create stepping stones that help reconnect habitats for wildlife across the country.”

Anyone, at any age, anywhere can participate with almost immediate positive results for wildlife. Participants can take an active role in potentially doubling the number of diverse local wildlife, while increasing the natural spaces within their communities. But that’s not all: Natural green spaces reduce urban temperatures, reduce water runoff and pollution, and provide a healing connection to nature.

There is a pressing need to help find a balance where people and wildlife coexist.  People and wildlife are living in closer proximity to each other than ever before as metropolitan areas now consume nearly half of the lower 48 states. In fact, research shows that roughly two-thirds of all North American wildlife species inhabit metro areas. With experts finding more than a third of North American wildlife species are at risk for extinction, wildlife’s proximity provides people an opportunity to actively aid these species in decline by participating in programs like Garden for Wildlife.

A giant swallowtail butterfly gets a sip of nectar in a Texas backyard habitat. Photo by Kaye Franklin via NWF Photo Contest.

Programs with Impact

Garden for Wildlife programs are making an impact. A wildlife habitat garden supports twice as much local wildlife as a conventional landscape of lawn and other ornamental non-native vegetation.

Garden for Wildlife offers a range of options for anyone, anywhere, to help support local wildlife and to restore and reconnect America’s natural spaces.  Garden for Wildlife includes the signature Certified Wildlife Habitat program, species-specific campaigns, partner initiatives, and National Wildlife Federation State Affiliate and regional campaigns focused on birds and other wildlife.

The initiative also offers opportunities to create and be recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat that are tailored to where you live, learn, play and worship:

Currently, 379 community leaders have taken the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge to increase monarch butterfly habitat through the efforts of 3 million people, and 170,000 people have taken the Butterfly Heroes pledge to create butterfly gardens with their families. The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge has established 700,000 pollinator gardens through joint efforts of National Wildlife Federation and the National Pollinator Garden Network.

Male American toad calling during the breeding season in a water garden. Places to raise young are a key component in any wildlife habitat garden. Photo by Kathy Bodall via NWF Photo Contest.


National Wildlife Federation amplifies the efforts of individuals and community groups through a range of national partnerships. Partners celebrating Garden for Wildlife’s 45th anniversary this spring include: American Beauties Native Plants, GrowIt!, The National Garden Association and Botanical Interests, Inc.  During its 45 years, Garden for Wildlife has worked closely with many key opinion leaders and experts committed to addressing the critical decline of wildlife species, increasing sustainable resources and native plants in the garden marketplace, and advocating for practices that do not harm wildlife. See a full list of Garden for Wildlife partners and collaborators.


Garden for Wildlife website provides easy to use tools and resources designed to help anyone take action for declining wildlife populations.  Highlights include: