Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Where the wild things are

Among the commitments and self-appointed tasks that have kept me away from the blog over the last few weeks has been making some changes to the Dunhill home. While I’ve undertaken a variety of green upgrades and renovations since Mrs. and I moved-in back in the fall of 2006, wildlife issues have been especially on my mind this spring.
The ways people have built and developed cities, suburbs, agricultural lands, and mine lands, particularly over the last century or so, can be very disruptive to plant and animal life. Even if we ignore any possible responsibility to care for nonhuman species for their own sake, these species provide important benefits to people. Native birds, for instance, are important for replanting native trees, which support communities of other plants and animals, which collectively contribute to clean water that people depend on. For a simpler example, houses with mature trees and flowers around them have higher average sale prices and spend fewer days on the market.
The National Wildlife Federation has a great program to encourage people to make their homes more wildlife-friendly. The Certified Wildlife Habitats program provides guidance on how to reduce negative impacts and realize positive impacts on wildlife. To become certified, participants need points in five areas: Food sources, water sources, places for cover, places to raise young, and sustainable gardening.
Most of my solutions are driven at least in part by the amount of time I have to devote to this project. Between family, work, school, and community commitments, I generally have to sacrifice on cost in order to actually get these things done. However, many of these solutions can be accomplished at little or no cost if you have the time and the inclination. I’ll let you know how I’m faring and how I’m solving each of the issues outlined in the certification program.

Image sources:
National Wildlife Federation
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History


Sue said...

I was so excited when I read this. We have about 3/4 an acre with a lot of mature trees (and plenty of young one's too), tangled thickets of blackberry and wild rose, blow-downs (from last summers storms), and unmown islands of native plants around our big trees. I followed the link and discovered that our property already qualifies to be certified, and was already to click the button, donate, and get a sign. Then I discovered that what I consider deliberate choices to provide good land stewardship and habitat, my husband as a badge of shame. He thinks he's suppose to have a yard that looks like everyone else's with nature properly beaten into submission, and that the only reason our yard doesn't look like everyone else's is that he's too busy (or too lazy) to take care of it. So he doesn't want a sign that would call attention to our yard. I thought it would be a good thing to generate questions and perhaps create "teaching moments." But the last thing he wants is for anyone to ask him about his yard.
Part of the problem, then is a set of cultural values and attitudes that equate responsible middle/working class masculine adulthood with a manicured lawn.
At least I can be satisfied that our yard IS a wild-life habitat, with all the elements, even if it is never certified!

E. R. Dunhill said...

I'm thrilled that this piece struck a chord! I'd love to see the day when the domesticated men of suburbia compete over biodiversity, rather than the completeness of exotic monoculture. ("Ha! I'm putting-in some rocks around my pond so I can attract giant rock-tripes. That'll make three lichen species in my yard!") (As a further aside to my wife: No, I'm not digging a pond, even tough I would love to gloat about having some Umbilicaria mammulata.)
If husband is not into the proud placard for the yard, it's worth noting that buying the sign is optional. Homeowners can support the program by certifying and keeping it low-key. Of course, as you've mentioned, the real benefit- the important part- is having all of the elements that support local wildlife.
The rainy weekend didn't make for good pictures, so I won't be blogging about my solutions for a few days. I did, however, manage to get my butterfly puddle installed before the storms hit. More on that later in the week.

Pat Jenkins said...

man and beast can co-exhist!!... he he...