Wildlife Habitat Communities are great for wildlife and people, too.


Now this may surprise long-time readers, if they  remember my taking the National Wildlife IMG_2637-1 Federation to task for its anti-gardening rhetoric.  And then there was the time I posted about the NWF focus-grouping the notion of partnering with Scotts Miracle-Gro.  

But today I'm cheerleading for their Wildlife Habitat Community program, and cheering especially for my town of Takoma Park, the first wildlife-habitat-certified community in all of Maryland (okay, it's a small state, but still).  We join just 52 other towns in the U.S. who've achieved this certification (happily, before two other Maryland towns that were competing with us to be the first). Here's a list of the certified communities in the U.S., plus another 42 that are registered, meaning they're working on it. 

So what does it mean and what does it take to get certified? Towns need a certain number of wildlife-certified backyards, public spaces and schools, depending on population, plus a public education campaign of some kind.  With our population of 17,000+, my town needed 100 homes, 4 common areas and 3 schools.  Here's how you earn points toward registration, then certification.  For example, points are awarded for creating a website to tell the community about the campaign, and we tweaked that by having a blog instead.  The blog and the campaign were called Wild, Wild Takoma – thus the inscription on the cake.

The NWF's community campaign goes a long way toward not just creating pockets of habitat in our overdeveloped world, but educating homeowners about wildlife-friendly ways to treat their property.  It's well designed and run, with great help given to each community – like detailed, step by step organizing help.

Our effort began in 2005, led by Bruce Sidwell (in floral shirt) on behalf of the terrific environmental group Friends of Sligo Creek, and I was part of the little committee of conspirators, contributing articles about the campaign in the local paper and serving as the official blogger. 

In this photo the team has just received books from a reprepresentative of the NWF (Roxanne Paul in brown shirt), at our very fun little celebration, which also included saxophone music, a reading by the city’s poet laureate, the symbolic planting of three Viburnum nudums, presentation of an award to the mayor, and a choral rendition of “O, Takoma” to the tune of “Oklahoma!” Some select lyrics include:

O, Takoma, home of hippies aging gracefully,
And of trees preserved, energy conserved,
And a true quest for equality.

Yep, that sounds like the place!

Refreshments included the lovely cake in the top photo and a surprisingly delicious mustard garlic spread – like pesto but zestier, and a great use of one of the worst invasive plants in our area.  Ingenious!

Lower photo by Julie Wyatt for the Takoma Voice.


  1. Congratulations! I knew of backyard habitat certification but not this. Sounds like a fun and very worthy goal for all communities. I’ll put a “like” on Facebook.

  2. What a world we live in. Our local newspaper just had an article in it about a woman who chased a bear off her deck that was apparently attracted by the birdseed she put out…when we can finally deflect the unwanted wildlife around here, maybe we can look at “creating habitat” for them that fits our needs too 🙂 And I love wildlife and nature, too!

    Meanwhile, mustard garlic is something chickens love, so if you’ve got backyard chickens, let ’em at it. We completely eradicated ours this way.

  3. I realize this post is about Certified Wildlife Communities and that’s not a bad thing.

    Okay, so I will probably make some folks mad. I support wildlife habitats, and for all practical purposes, I have one. I supply all of the needs listed for certification to become a backyard wildlife habitat–food, water, cover, etc. However, I stop short of becoming certified. Why?

    Because the birds, bees, lizards, snakes, butterflies, etc. don’t know a certified habitat from a non-certified habitat. They don’t care.

    It bothers me that 1) there is a charge to be certified and a charge for the sign and a BIG charge for the fancier BIG signs…Why not just ask straight out for a monetary donation instead? 2) People wear their “Certified Wildlife Habitat” signs as if they were a trendy brand.

    Well, I never run with the pack.

    I made my own signs which are posted in my garden and were cheaper than the fancy metal ones you can buy from the NWF. One says “Uncertified Wildlife Habitat” and the other says “Certified Wildlife, Please go Next-door” (with an arrow that points to my neighbor’s certified habitat).–Yes, my neighbor still likes and talks to me.

  4. I live in Duluth MN and have had a WLF Habitat for 10 years. Wish wish wish my community would be aware of the need to nourish and sustain wildlife.

  5. Laura, don’t feel bad. Others here and elsewhere have complained about the NWF’s never-ending and seemingly all-encompassing quest for moolah.
    And you’re right that one can make changes without bothering with NWF certification but in my town, not as many people would have without the campaign. It worked.

  6. I have nothing but the most positive things to say about the NWF. Have certified personal gardens, public gardens, community gardens, and now planning to get my whole county (Putnam, NY) certified as I works towards becoming a Habitat Steward Host.

  7. I’m glad Laura is providing habitat and helping them; that’s the most important thing of all. But, you need to realize that NWF is a non-profit and the only reason we have been around for 75 years is because of donations and items like the certifications & signs that we sell. To think that we could offer them for free and hope that people will donate is being naive. We have so many conservation and education programs that we do offer for free and we can only fund them with the few programs of ours that actually do raise some revenue. I am proud to work for an organization that helps all wildlife, not just certain charismatic species, and our members range from hunters and anglers (the original wildlife conservationists) to tree-huggers and vegetarians like me.

  8. So, are there fiddlers by Sligo Creek? Do they play “The Sligo Maid”, “The Sligo Fiddler”, “The Sligo FIddler’s Farewell”, or “Trip to Sligo”? Is there a new tune, The Trip to Sligo Creek, or Down by the Sligo Gardens?

    Yes, I’ve lost it. It’s just that I’m quite fond of Irish traditional music, and Sligo is a great source of fiddlers.

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