Ever wonder if there is more you could do in your yard and garden to attract a greater diversity of birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife? YardMap is a citizen-science project of Cornell University that can assist you in creating a backyard habitat friendly to many species of wildlife.
Via their impressive and easily navigated website, you can use satellite images of your yard and neighboring land to analyze habitat and types of wild animals that would be attracted to your site. You can find recommendations for planting different areas of your yard to create microclimates and zones for attracting different species.
It is a great resource to connect you with gardening and wildlife professionals, as well as other citizens like you, who share similar interests. There is an online forum to help answer questions, and you can join others in your area to form a group to do special projects. By registering your data and through updates, you can assist scientists in their studies of trends in wildlife populations and diversity.
Another organization, National Wildlife Federation is dedicated to restoring wildlife habitats in commercial and residential areas. Your yard can be certified through an application process to have it designated as a Certified Wildlife Habitat®.
One noteworthy project is their Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, aimed at creating habitat for pollinators in peril. It assists gardeners in choosing plants and creating shelter for breeding and overwintering pollinators. Their website is full of great information that makes the learning process easy and fun.
NWF also publishes Ranger Rick® magazine for kids and have programs to get kids outside and involved in learning about the habitat and wildlife around them. A special educational program designed for teachers is also offered and can assist in certifying schools as Wildlife Habitats for ongoing nature study.
Other websites worthy of visiting are: The Xerces Society dedicated to pollinator conservation, and Monarchwatch, which focuses specifically on restoring habitat for the critically imperiled Monarch butterfly.
Each of us has a part to play in creating a healthy environment for ourselves, our children and community, which naturally extends to our wild neighbors as well. Please consider making your yard a haven that welcomes all.