Montana’s Garden for Wildlife City

On July 19th, 2018, Missoula became the first certified Community Wildlife Habitat in the state of Montana! Situated on the outskirts of the Northern Rocky Mountains, Missoula is well known for its vibrant community, beautiful scenery, and astonishing number of breweries. While mountains surround this picturesque

The University of Montana’s Food Forest became a Certified Wildlife Habitat in spring of 2017. Photo by: Sarah Bates

town the Clark Fork River separates Missoula to the north and south. It’s no wonder Missoula is a haven for wildlife! Nicknamed the Garden City, it only seemed natural that in 2015, the National Wildlife Federation and the City of Missoula partnered to make this community the Garden for Wildlife City. Thus the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative took root.

To become a certified Community Wildlife Habitat, a city must reach a certain number of homes, schools, and common spaces as Certified Wildlife Habitats. Any space that provides food, water, cover, and places to raise young for wildlife, while using sustainable gardening practices, can become a Certified Wildlife Habitat. To recruit citizens to certify their habitats and spread the word about the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative, the project clearly needed a team! 

Many traffic calming circles in Missoula provided excellent habitat! Photo by: Claire Grisham

Across the nation, other Community Wildlife Habitats projects like this are typically led by community volunteers, non-profit groups, government entities, even Home Owners Associations. In Missoula, the initiative started and finished with the leadership of AmeriCorps members from the Montana Energy Corps program, a National Service program housed through the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

Darcy McKinley Lester, who started in the fall of 2014 kicked off the initiative when she registered the city of Missoula in the summer of 2015. Juliet Slutzker, the next energy corps member partnered with Missoula Parks & Recreation and made enormous strides with local schools to create schoolyard habitats during her term in the summer of 2016. Throughout the spring of 2017, Brittany Weber continued educating community members and

DeSmet School converted an existing native plant garden into a multi-use outdoor learning space and a Certified Schoolyard Habitat. Photo by: Juliet Slutzker

gaining certification points for the initiative. Lastly, Claire Grisham, from fall of 2017 to summer of 2018, secured the final certification points by partnering with neighborhood councils allowing Missoula to successfully cross the finish line! 

Missoula’s certification was happily announced at a local Missoula baseball game by Mayor John Engen and NWF’s Northern Rockies, Prairies, and Pacific Regional Director, Tom France. The Osprey baseball team became a supporter of the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative when their stadium, Ogren Park at Allegiance Field, became a certified wildlife habitat in the summer of 2017. If you find yourself at one of their games, you may spot a large osprey nest overlooking the field! Ospreys mate for life and this nest is home to an annually returning pair of birds. To learn more about on-going work with ospreys, check out the Montana Osprey Project.

The City of Missoula certified the outside of the City Hall building! Photo by: Britt Holewinski

The National Wildlife Federation local staff supported this project from the get-go by providing advice, guidance, and hands-on assistance to help Missoula become certified. Some of these staff members include Naomi Alhadeff, Sarah Bates, Tom France, Courtney Sullivan, and Kate Sutherland. Volunteers, community members, partner organizations, and most importantly, the City of Missoula, committed time and support to the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative. This project would never have seen completion without their help!

Missoula resident enjoying her backyard habitat! Photo by: Juliet Slutzker

Missoula is now the 111th certified Community Wildlife Habitat in the country and will receive national recognition from the National Wildlife Federation! Plans are already in the works to see other communities in Montana follow suit and engage more people to be wildlife friendly stewards.

For more information on this project, please visit and like the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat’s Facebook page.

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