Special to the Progress

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) announce that the property of Don and Patricia Lowery, located in Jacksonville, is now recognized as one of Texas's best Certified Wildlife Habitat sites.

This achievement contributes to NWF's goal of certifying 100,000 habitats by the end of 2007.

The property now attracts a variety of birds, butterflies and other wildlife while helping to protect the local environment. With the help of NWF and TPWD, many habitat enthusiasts have turned their yards and other garden spaces into enticing wildlife refuges.

NWF began the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program in 1973 and has since certified over 80,000 habitats nationwide. The majority of these sites represent the hard work and commitment of individuals and families providing habitat near their homes, but NWF has also certified more than 2,700 schools and hundreds of business and community sites. In 1994, Texas Parks and

Wildlife Department joined the backyard habitat effort, introducing the Texas Wildscapes program which has certified more than 2,000 properties and more than 10,000 acres as suitable habitat for wildlife. Certified habitats can also be found everywhere from post offices, hospitals and places of worship to community parks, corporate buildings and municipal facilities.

The average habitat is between one-third and one-half acre, but certified sites range from urban balconies to thousand-acre areas.

Any habitat enthusiast can create a backyard habitat and learn the rewards of “gardening for wildlife.” NWF teaches the importance of environmental stewardship by providing guidelines for making landscapes more hospitable to wildlife. In order to become certified, a property must provide the four basic elements that all wildlife need: food, water, cover and places to raise young. It must also employ sustainable gardening practices.

Habitat restoration is critical in urban and suburban settings where commercial and residential development encroaches on natural wildlife areas. In addition to providing for wildlife, certified habitats conserve our natural resources by reducing or eliminating the need for fertilizers, pesticides or irrigation water, which ultimately protects the air, soil and water throughout our communities. More information about gardening for wildlife is available at www.nwf.org/gardenforwildlife or at 800-822-9919.

Creating habitats not only helps wildlife, it can help reduce global warming pollution and save money as well. Burning fossil fuels to heat and cool our homes and maintain our lawns releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.

Replacing lawns with strategically located trees and other native vegetation can insulate our homes from heat, cold and wind, reducing our heating and cooling needs and thus our carbon dioxide emissions. And, unlike lawns, wildlife-friendly native plants don't need constant maintenance from gas guzzling lawn mowers or fertilizers that require fossil fuels to manufacture.

On top of this, plants actually absorb carbon dioxide, helping to further reduce the amount in the atmosphere. All of this adds up to increased wildlife habitat, reduction in excessive carbon dioxide that causes global warming and reduced energy bills for homeowners. More information about how gardeners can reduce the effects of global warming can be found at


Habitats can produce other financial rewards for homeowners. Realtors will promote the certified status of homes for sale because they see it as an added selling feature. It’s an attractive element to many potential home buyers looking to share their landscape with Mother Nature.

Potential homeowners who are attracted to a house with a certified habitat are also more likely to maintain the habitat once they take ownership.

NWF has received numerous testimonials from program participants who find their efforts to create a habitat not only rewarding, but fun for the whole family. As one participant wrote, “I am a beginner, but judging from the many birds, squirrels, butterflies and rabbits, along with the flowers blooming everywhere in my yard, I must be on the right track.”

Few people understand how just one person can make a difference. David Mizejewski, NWF naturalist and host of Animal Planet's Backyard Habitat, says, “It’s easy to feel that there is no hope for wildlife in our modem world of smog, traffic and asphalt. But there is hope. Each of us can make our own piece of the Earth a healthy, green space that helps restore the ecological balance.”

Every applicant receives membership to the National Wildlife Federation including a one-year subscription to the award-winning National Wildlife magazine with inspiring wildlife articles and amazing nature photography. Certified participants also receive a personalized certificate and quarterly newsletters, and are eligible to post NWF' s special outdoor sign designating their yard or garden as wildlife-friendly.

NWF now offers the most comprehensive guide to date on gardening for wildlife, authored by Mizejewski. The 128-page Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife won the Independent Publishers Association's 2005 award for Best Gardening/Agriculture Book of the Year. It is full of practical how-to information to make your yard a wildlife haven and certify your property as an official NWF Wildlife Habitat site. The book is available online at www.nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat, and can also be ordered by calling 800-900-2656.

For more information on how you can create a Best of Texas Backyard Habitat site, please contact the National Wildlife Federation's Gulf States Natural Resource Center at 512-476-9805 or Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at 512-389-4644.

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