NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat Program Transforms Yards, Lives

About the Author

Susan Sachs Lipman (Suz) has more than 25 years experience as a writer, editor, social media manager, community builder, and advocate for getting children into nature. She is the author of Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which was named a TIME magazine Top 10 Trend of 2012. She has written for the New York Times Motherlode blog, the Christian Science Monitor’s Modern Parenthood blog and others. Suz serves as the Director of Social Media Promotion and Partnerships for the Children & Nature Network.

The National Wildlife Federation is ramping up its Certified Wildlife Habitat program. Thousands of home and school gardeners already participate in the program, which allows families, students and others an opportunity for deeper enjoyment of nearby nature, as well as the education and satisfaction that comes from knowing that their spaces are helping local wildlife flourish. Participants garden on urban balconies, rural farms, and everything in between.

The name might sound a little intimidating, but the elements that go into a Certified Wildlife Habitat are not difficult to achieve. These include supplying local animals with water and food sources and shelter, and gardening sustainably. The NWF web site has easy-to-follow instructions and tips.

NWF also has a wonderful article about how to make wildlife gardening fun and rewarding for children.

C&NN Co-founder Richard Louv calls the act of creating a habitat no less than world-changing. In his blog, he wrote about the Wildlife Habitat program, What if we were to take part in (animal) migrations by nurturing a planting a few feet from the barbecue grill? That grill, that yard, would then be connected to something large, magnificent, and not entirely explicable.

Also quoted in Louv’s piece is Dr. Douglas Tallamy, professor and author of the book Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens. Tallamy notes that gardeners have become important layers in the management of our nation’s wildlife. We can, he says, truly make a difference.

One person who is already making a difference is Nancy Salerno, a member of C&NN’s Natural Teachers Network and longtime Ohio pre-school teacher and director. Nancy wrote via e-mail, Recently I discovered the importance of getting children in touch with nature. For the past 4-5 years I have transformed our play yard into a Certified Natural Habitat through NWF, and a Certified Nature Explore Classroom through the Dimensions and Arbor Day Foundations. This could not have been a better move to benefit the children. We have seen them transform almost instantly. Our play yard has opened their ability to self-regulate.

She added that the children are learning, at very young ages, that they can have a positive impact on their communities.

Douglas, Nancy, and the other Certified Wildlife Habitat gardeners are making a difference — one child, plant, bird, butterfly, and insect at a time.

Note: Douglas Tallamy will be speaking about his book March 29, 7:30 pm at the Grand Rapids, MI, Audubon Club.


  1. Thanks for this nice feature, Suz, and for including the gardening with kids article among the NWF resources. Because I garden with my own kids and helped to create a habitat at their school, Nancy Salerno’s comments about the benefits of connecting children with nature really resonated with me. Such joys for them–and the adults sharing the outdoor time. Cheers to nurturing a sense of wonder, discovering wildlife and building communities. Happy day! –Kelly

  2. This is excellent. I am huge fan of the NWF’s program — it really helped us to be more mindful of our gardening practices in the context of “our yard as habitat.” We had the incredible experience of witnessing the lifecycle of the American bullfrog firsthand in our backyard after getting ourselves certified and making our yard more wildlife-friendly — it was amazing. I just wrote about it yesterday here:

  3. Suz Lipman

    Belated greetings, Kelly and Laura! Thanks for your wonderful enthusiasm and comments. I’m so glad you’re having terrific experiences in the garden and with the habitat program. Kelly, thank you for your inspiring article. Laura, I’m pleased to now know about your wonderful web site! I hope to stay in touch with you both.

  4. I found this article after my 4-year-old learned about the Crisis in the Gulf while watching Nickelodeon! I have helped her join many of the “green” clubs for kids and we have been taking steps as a family to help our environment. When she approached me about making a habitat, I was both disappointed (that we had never done it in the past) and EXCITED! Together, we are researching many different habitats that we can create for the wildlife in our area. I just wanted to let everyone know that although it is a lot of work, it is SO MUCH FUN! And, to top it off, it gives my daughter something to look forward to as well as a fun, productive way to spend her Summer! Thank you for this highly informative article. Now, I know exactly how to help my daughter make a difference!

  5. Suz Lipman

    Hi Brandy! It’s so wonderful that you are creating a habitat garden with your daughter. It sounds like you’re really going to enjoy it and see a lot of new species. It is a great way for kids to make a difference and see how all beings in the ecosystem are related. It’s also really fun and a way to channel the worry about the future of the planet that small kids can have into something really positive and delightful.

    Have fun and please keep us posted about your garden! I encourage you to join our discussion forum (, if you haven’t already, and post pictures.

  6. It is fine for today finally find a web where your blogger knows honestly well with regards to his issue.


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