The National Wildlife Foundation’s Backyard Wildlife Habitat program has helped many urban, suburban, and rural property owners think about how their own small part of the Earth can be a wildlife habitat and not just a yard for a house. It has been a fairly successful ongoing program, and acts as a reminder for home owners to treat their properties as part of a larger ecosystem. It has even been extended to certifying entire communities and towns that achieve certain participation levels.
While learning about the Island County Public Benefit Rating System, I saw that Backyard Wildlife Habitat certification was included as one of the many positive indicators for acceptance into the PBRS program. I investigated further through the National Wildlife Foundation website, completed their online property details and certification process, and now have our property officially certified as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat.
The real-time evaluation process was based on completing a questionnaire oriented to food, water, cover, and places to raise young. Of course, with our naturally forested acreage and future low impact development plans, our property characteristics far exceeded the minimum requirements for inclusion in the program and it was easy getting the certification.
I was a bit surprised to find that in some evaluation areas my property was only rated average. However, upon further inspection, I could see why: I didn’t include things like feeders, bird boxes, mini ponds, and other essentially artificial additions to the environment. The bias toward smaller urban/suburban properties in the program became obvious, since my forest would have been rated lower than someone with a “tricked out and designed” urban gardenscape that included additions to the environment that essentially tried to make up for what the property’s environment otherwise lacked naturally. Those didn’t apply to my property, but their certification process wasn’t detailed enough to note the important difference. In the end, it didn’t matter. I got many credits across many parts of the application. Nonetheless, it was a bit humorous to see that an urban quarter acre mini-garden could perhaps score higher as “wildlife habitat” than my 15 acre naturally forested rural land!