Tuesday, September 19, 2017

To certify Greater Longfellow as a Certified Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, we need 150 certified Backyard Wildlife Habitats, 4 Schoolyard Habitats, and 4 Common Areas certified as Wildlife Habitat.  Plus, organize and provide educational and community outreach events.

Where we are at currently:
42 Backyard Wildlife Habitats
3 Schoolyard Habitats
2 Common Areas or Businesses

The 4 components of a healthy Certified Wildlife Habitat are:  Food, Water, Cover, and a Place to Raise Young. 
Click on the tabs in the upper right to view more detailed ideas and suggestions to make your yard more wildlife friendly.
Ready to certify your yard right now?  Certify online at the NWF website (click on Certify Your Garden): https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/Certify

Third, A Third, and A Third:
Over half of the continental United States is agricultural land, and almost another half is urban and suburban sprawl.  That leaves about a mere 5% of the land for true wildlife habitat.  In Minnesota, over the last 150 years, we have dug out or cut down all of our original native prairies and deciduous forests (practically speaking).  Even the few remaining remnants are imperilled, and wildlife habitat continues to get paved over by human development.  Now is the time to turn the tide, and to work with nature, not against it.    
If we don't start finding ways to share our cities and farms with more wildlife, the biodiversity of our nation will be (and is) imperiled.  If every yard, every business, every house of worship, every farm, every construction project could plant even a single native tree, or a pollinator garden, I believe we could achieve a much more balanced "highest and best use" of the land, so that we have approximately 33% each of ag, city, and wilds - and these don't have to be mutually exclusive - with rational and even common sense planning, they can (and must) be mutually beneficial and intermixed.  Nature no longer ends at the edge of a primordial forest (there is no true ancient forest left!). 
I'm not a scientist, just a concerned citizen, I don't know what the percentage tipping point really is, but this seems like a pretty reasonable and balanced goal for highly populated areas (a recent article in the Guardian discusses 50% for Wildlife, this is a good quick read: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/18/should-we-give-half-planet-earth-wildlife-nature-reserve)
No matter what ends up happening, whether you act or not, we will each have played a part in this new era of human and animal and plant kind ("the Anthropocene" - the Age of Humans).  Meanwhile, let's try to have a little fun facilitating and noticing all the wonders of nature that are all around us right here, right now.

So w
hat exactly are the BENEFITS of working towards certifying the Greater Longfellow Community as a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat?


-Engage and share with fellow neighbors to build a sense of place and community

-Fun to meet and talk with others that have similar interests and goals

-Bring nature to you.  Some of us don’t have the time or physical ability to visit state and national parks, so a wildlife friendly yard is a great way to still be able to "stop and smell the roses".  It’s a great way for anyone to build awareness of all the life around you, enjoying the colors, sounds, and antics of robins, chickadees, wrens, hummingbirds, chipmunks, dragonflies, bumblebees, butterflies, and so much more!

-Beautify and enliven our boulevards and unused lawn edges with flowers and butterflies of every color.

-Abundant green space and well landscaped lawns brimming with a wide array of plants and animals creates a happier, more pleasant place to live.

-You will probably meet people as you work in your yard, and when you attend wildlife related events and workshops.  By being social and positive, you help create and maintain community (and if you are willing, "community" can include the plants and animals that we share these grounds with).

-Learn about birds, animals, plants, people, construction, city planning, history, and so much more!

-By creating a habitat, you will feel a deeper connection to the history, natural heritage, and cultures of Minnesota.

-It's a joy, an honor, and a real sense of fulfillment, when a butterfly or bird shows up in your yard (or makes a home!) because of the plants and landscaping you created there.

-Kids can help and learn about nature while you undertake this project, too, and it’s a way to show them (and the neighborhood) that you care about the current plight of animals and the environment, and are willing to do something about it.  As someone once said, "I don't want to leave a better planet for my kids, I want to leave better kids for the planet."

-Schoolyard Habitats can help reinforce the learning kids receive at home, and provide numerous additions to the school's curriculum, from drawing flowers and butterflies, to counting petals and parts of flowers, identifying insects, Nature’s Notebook, to planting and tending the plants and gardens themselves.  Experiential learning such as this is quite valuable, and would be a step towards curing "Nature Deficit Disorder".  And don’t count them short - the kids themselves can share what they’ve learned with their parents and friends, further encouraging an environmental ethic.

-Do something with your own lawn (or balcony!) that makes a difference, and has immediate rewards to you.  And it doesn’t require a grant proposal, a committee meeting or an act of congress.  Just roll up your sleeves and start planting!

-Create a community that shares ideas and propogation of native plants and the “wilding” of urban spaces.  These are “our” plants and animals (or we are their gardeners???).  They belong here, and it’s time to reclaim and honor them as a community.

-Planting a single tree has multiple benefits.  Then, if you mimic a natural forest, you can add smaller trees too, a shrub layer, and finally, flowers, vines, groundcovers, and leaf litter.  By doing so, you will have created literally hundreds of little microhabitats for thousands of organisms (all in one yard!).  Then each additional certified yard multiplies these benefits exponentially!

-Contribute to the re-connecting of green spaces, which greatly amplifies the benefits to wildlife.

-Help stretch the benefits from the ongoing efforts to clean and sustain the River Gorge by continuing the flow of green space (and migrating birds!) to our own backyards!  The Mississippi is a major flyway for migrating birds, this is a special opportunity our community has to support this ancient phenomenon, and also to see some of these incredible birds up close.

-Your yard can be an "island" or oasis of biodiversity.  Or, if you're lucky, a bunch of your neighbors will also certify their yards for wildlife, creating a synergy that welcomes even more wildlife.

-Restore or replace a portion of the original wildlife habitat lost to human industry and development.

-Help save some of our endangered or locally threatened critters:  Monarch Butterfly, Bluebirds, Bats, Frogs, Turtles, Otters, Sturgeon, Paddle Fish, Peregrine Falcons, Chimney Swifts, Fireflies, Rusty Patched Bumblebees, Karner Blue Butterfly, etc.

-Put a check on the animals we perhaps attract a little too much already (squirrels, English house sparrows, rabbits, etc.) and increase the “carrying capacity” of our neighorhoods to attract and sustain a much broader array of wildlife:  more songbirds of every stripe, Turkey, Coyote (?), frogs, turtles, dragonflies, fire flies/lightning bugs, and so many more creatures need a place to thrive.

-Help save and popularize/spread/show off Minnesota’s own native plants, many of which happen to also be rare, endangered, or threatened by human development (such as Witch Hazel, Trillium, Nodding Wild Onion, various Ladyslippers, etc, etc.).
-It just takes a little thought to give consideration to wildlife.  As the “smart” people we are, it is possible to ADD to wildlife with every project, not DESTROY it.  Imagine adding to wildlife habitat with every house or road project, every multi-family or commercial development.


-Greater biodiversity can save us from some of the extra expense and heartache involved when an overutilized single species becomes diseased (Elm trees, Ash trees, etc.) or breaks out into becoming an invasive species (Buckthorn, Asian Honeysuckle, etc.).  And hopefully reverse the world's trend towards the “6th Great Extinction”, preventing the mass loss of the majority of earth's species.

-By encouraging biodiversity, it is hoped that a resiliency will be built into the ecosystem (naturally!), so that disease and one particular species does not spread uncontrollably, eventually tempered by some other creature or aspect of the environment.  Biodiversity regulates health, not only for plants and animals, but ultimately for humans too (for example, did you know Opossum are voracious consumers of ticks? Or that Wasps are potent predators of caterpillars and numerous other garden pests? And that Cattails in a wetland can filter out some of the pollution we cause?)

-Save our watershed! Reduce water usage and pollution flowing into the creek and river by replacing our typical “green concrete” lawns with lush gardens, trees, raingardens, ponds, and deep-rooted native plants (naturally adapted to our climate, native plants require less watering).  Keep the fall leaves in the planted edges of your yard, and in a compost bin - they don't have to go to a landfill or into the storm drains!

-Planting a single tree retains and evaporates enough water to approximately equal the holding and draining potential of a medium sized raingarden. 

-Help mitigate the urban heat island affect, further reducing energy waste.

-Cleaner air and water.  More biodiversity and less lawn could mean less mowing (exhaust from small engines is terrible) and less use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides that wash down to the river during the next rain fall.  You could even create a no mow lawn, sell your lawnmower, and replace it with a trimmer and weed puller instead.  Planting a boulevard garden could screen out some of the harmful exhaust from passing vehicles too.

-“Daylighting” underground streams and rainwater drainage systems could be easier to maintain, and are nice to look at.  Birds and animals can drink the water.  Incorporating raingardens would further increase the watershed and wildlife benefits.

-Paradigm shift:  from “city making” (or civilizing) to re-“wilding” (or revitalizing), from environmental degradation to environmental improvement, from quick extraction to sustainable development, from exploitation to justice, from polluting to cleaning up after ourselves.


-Get national recognition for being the first community in Minnesota to be certified by the NWF.  Good PR!

-Common Space, House of Worship, or Business Habitats are a wonderful way to spread the word about wildlife habitat in the neighborhood, and inspire anyone that visits that location.  It will also help to set that business or organization apart, showing in a vivid and visceral way just how important wildlife and the environment is to that company or institution.

-Increase property values with a well designed landscape.  Mature trees are especially rare. Well chosen, well situated trees greatly add to the value of your property. 

-Make your own compost, eliminate lawn chemicals and lawnmowers, and save money!
-A well-placed deciduous tree can shade your house in the summertime, reducing your need and expense for so much air conditioning - and still allow the sun to hit your house in the wintertime!

-Cleaner air, water, and soils would ultimately save our society tons of money on healthcare, and horrendous expensive cleanup efforts.

-Vibrant green spaces are said to make people happier, and reduce stress.  This could theoretically lead to less health problems and less crime, which would save us all a lot of money and headaches (literally!).

-One word:  ECOTOURISM.  The River Gorge is a unique and highly aesthetic portion of the Mississippi River, part of a National Park, and also a major migratory bird route. The Minnehaha Falls has long been a travel destination from far and wide. Boating and paddling on the Mississippi is fun, and if it is ever clean enough someday, swimming and fishing would be popular too. The scientists, naturalists, and tour guides we have (just in our own neighborhood!) are world class.  I haven't even mentioned how we are practically in the middle of 3 Biomes:  Prairie, Deciduous Forest, and Coniferous North Woods.  For world travelers, we would make the perfect jumping off point for further explorations.

To certify Greater Longfellow as a Certified Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, we need 150 certified Backyard Wildl...