6 easy steps to support wildlife in 2014

If you'd like bluebirds in your yard, stop poisoning the bugs.

If youd like bluebirds in your yard, stop poisoning the bugs.

This is the season to make resolutions for the upcoming year.  Some are easy to keep, especially when you have a firm and attainable goal in mind where the results are so rewarding.

1) Turn your yard into a working ecosystem

If you want your landscape to support more birds, then youll need to invite the bugs, reduce the lawn, and plant more natives.  Okay, so maybe this isnt the easiest item on this list, but its important and you can accomplish it in small steps over several years.
a) The first step will save you money: Stop using pesticides. For a detailed explanation of the poison cycle, see my post: A poison is a poison is a poison.

 

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A squirrel tree frog sitting on a blue stem palmetto frond would be easy prey for a cat. You want these voracious bug eaters in your landscape, so keep your cats inside.

b) Keep your cats inside.  These subsidized predators in the landscape skew the ecosystem and create a huge problem for various wildlife including birds, toads, lizards and more. For more information and opinions on cats see Cats in the landscape controversy.

c) Reduce your lawn acreage by replacing some of it with native habitat such as meadows or groves of native trees and shrubs. Manage the remaining lawn more sustainably. A sterile, monoculture lawn offers little habitat value, but when you stop using poisons and synthetic chemical fertilizer, it will become more diverse and the soils ecosystem will begin to recover. If your lawn needs fertilizer or if the soil needs restoration, use a light layer of compost just as your lawn naturally comes out of dormancyin Florida spring is the only time when fertilizing makes sense.  For more ideas and suggestions on sustainable lawn management practices and lawn replacement, see my articles: Reducing lawn in the landscape  and Adventures in creating a native garden.  Also see the Lawn Reform Coalition website for an in-depth and nation-wide review of all aspects of sustainable lawn management and replacement ideas.

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A winter zebra longwing on a new snow squarestem (Melanthera nivea) sprout. In Florida, wildlife gardeners need to provide year-round flowers.

d) Choose your new plants with wildlife in mind. Install plants that will: have berries throughout the winter for birds, have tubular flowers for hummingbirds, supply larval food for butterflies and moths, provide nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies throughout the seasonin Florida, that means year-round. Doug Tallamys ideas for the important part even small landscape can make has made a huge difference in how we approach our home landscaping. Also see my post Teeming with zebras for more information on how to welcome Floridas state butterfly into your yard, too.

e) Provide shelter and nesting sites. Leave some land unplanted and unmulched for native bees and toads. Create a stick pile that never gets cleaned up in a back corner of your property. Leave snags and logs where possible in your landscape. For more information and further resources on creating habitat and maybe even certifying your yard, read on my article Creating backyard habitat.

Even clean water becomes polluted when it runs across roads and parking lots.

Even clean water becomes polluted when it runs across roads and parking lots, so retain your stormwater.

2) Conserve & retain water

Water pollution, especially nutrient overloads, has spoiled both aquatic and riparian habitats for a wide variety of wildlife. The majority of the pollution comes from hard-to-identify and control non-point sourcesthese include stormwater runoff from public and private properties, which is carries nutrients from fertilizers, silt from erosion, plus it picks up chemicals on roadways on its way to the nearest waterway.

On your own property you can install rain barrels and rain gardens so that little or no runoff leaves your lot. Read my article on rain gardens which includes links to rain barrels and other resources.  For a broader picture of the problem read We all live in a watershed.

The best way to learn about native plants and animals is up close and in person.

The best way to learn about native plants and animals is up close and in person.

3) Increase your knowledge

While reading articles and books will help with background information, there is no substitute for getting out into nature, especially with a knowledgeable guide. So make 2014 the year you join your local native plant society or Audubon society chapter and then go on their field trips, and attend their meetings. Each state has its own native plant societyThe American Horticultural Society has put together a list of all the native plant societies and here is the general sites for the Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy.  There are other environmental groups that also host field trips and educational meetings, so find a good match for your interests and get involved.  I know I have found a stimulating environment in Florida Native Plant Society: See my post My name is Ginny Stibolt and Im addicted to the Florida Native Plant Society.

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You can help parks by volunteering or by simply picking up trash along the trails. My daughter and I collected some trash on our Christmas hike this year making the park safer for wildlife and more inviting for humans.

4) Support your local parks

Parklands provide huge chunks of habitat, and greenway connectors between other open lands, which is critical for wildlife. But as budgets across the board are being cut, parks on every level are feeling the pinch.  You can show your support by being an active customer, so as they make their cases for funding, their numbers justify the expenditures. You can take you family camping, hiking, fishing, and exploring in your regional parks and parks around the nation.  What a great way to solidify family ties and hook your kids on nature.

If there is a park near you, find out how to volunteer to help out.  They may need help to maintain trails, remove invasive exotics, build and maintain butterfly gardens near the buildings, or to clean up trash. Here a couple of examples of what can be accomplished: Removing invasives in Mandarin: a team effort and FNPS Ixia Chapter project: Native Park restoration.

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Speak up for Mother Nature. Politicians may only be hearing from lobbyists for developers and big businesses.

5) Influence the deciders

Large environmental decisions are made by politicians and bureaucrats who may not hear from anyone but the lobbyists for developers or big business. You can make a difference for wildlife and the native habitats by speaking up and/or support organizations that are speaking out for Mother Nature and her wildlife.  While you may think that you sound like a broken record, it takes 17 repetitions before most people commit a new idea to their retrievable memory bank. Read my article Supporting wildlife beyond your garden gate.

Also, join organizations that have an outreach program and help spread the word by volunteering to man (or woman) their booths. See the four articles that Sue Dingwell and I wrote covering the various aspects of making your outreach efforts more effective: Outreach with impact!: Part 1; Part 2 ; Part 3; and Part 4.

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Reduce your ecological footprint. there are so many ways to do so.

6) Reduce your personal ecological footprint

In addition to greening up your landscape and becoming more involved in supporting your local parks and joining environmental groups that match your interests, maybe you could begin the process of consuming less and recycling more. This may not directly affect wildlife, but if we all use fewer resources, it reduces the destruction of wild spaces that support our wildlife. There are many ways to approach this resolution and how you proceed will depend upon many factors.

For us, my husband and I produce very little waste that goes to the landfill.  We compost the kitchen scraps, donate old clothing, and make do with less stuff.  Weve reduced our electricity bills by turning up the air conditioning to 84 in the summer and turning down the heat in the winter to 67. We cook most of our food from scratch and grow a lot of the produce ourselves. For more information and a quiz to see how youre doing, see Reduce your footprint.

Happy New Year!
If we all work together, 2014 could be a great year for wildlife.

If we take better care of our planet, the rewards are great. Remember, there is no Planet B!

If we take better care of our planet, the rewards are great.
Remember, there is no Planet B!

© 2014, Ginny Stibolt. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us

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About Ginny Stibolt

Ginny Stibolt, a naturalist with a master's degree in botany, lives in Green Cove Springs in northern Florida.  She's written 2 Florida gardening books, Sustainable Gardening for Florida and Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida , both published by University Press of Florida.  Her website, Green Gardening Matters contains a six-year log of Florida gardening, nearly 100 articles, and links to more than 100 podcasts about gardening in Florida.  She's an active member of the Florida Native Plant Society and is one of the primary FNPS bloggers.  She is also an active member of the Lawn Reform Coalition.

Comments

  1. Kathy Settevendemie says:

    Ginny, Thanks for your post! A great reminder that there are so many ways we can provide habitat for wildlife and that every little improvement we make in that direction benefits the natural world around us. Sometimes it can seem daunting to try to make these changes but there are organizations like the National Wildlife Federation that have programs providing step-by-step guidance for creating backyard habitat and they even provide (for a fee) a sign that lets people know what you are trying to achieve.

    Reply
    • Ginny Stibolt says:

      Yes, NWF has been encouraging people for years. One of the links I provided is to my article on certifying my own yard.
      Ginny Stibolt recently posted..The holidays in Florida

      Reply
  2. Suzanne Dingwell says:

    Ginny, it all makes perfect sense! Thanks for writing it up in ways that will inspire others to get on the bandwagon! Ill be on it, too.

    Reply
    • Ginny Stibolt says:

      Thanks Sue. As I mentioned, I read that people need to hear about an item 17 times before they create a mental image of the topic. So while we feel like weve said all things things before, maybe there are enough people who havent heard about these topics enough to call them their own. Maybe even enough so that theyll claim them as their own ideas in 2014 and it will be a great year for wildlife and our native ecosystems.
      Ginny Stibolt recently posted..The holidays in Florida

      Reply
  3. Debbie Roberts says:

    Ginny, Those are all wonderfully practical ideas that are easy to implement, when it comes down to it.Even if readers choose just or two to implement in 2014 that will be a great start.
    Debbie Roberts recently posted..Groundhog Resistant Perennials

    Reply
    • Ginny Stibolt says:

      Yes Debbie, if we all do at least a few of these suggestions this year, Mother Nature will thank us. Happy 2014.
      Ginny Stibolt recently posted..The holidays in Florida

      Reply
  4. tom says:

    how about a 6-A and add volunteerism! I volunteer with az game and fish and the bureau of land management (wild horse and burro) two agencies with a lot of responsibility for wildlifeyou can learn a lot about wildlife, get outside, volunteer at your schedule, a win-win for all concerned!

    Reply
    • Ginny Stibolt says:

      Yes, Tom volunteering at local parks and/or for your local groups that are working for wildlife and native ecosystems is an amazing way to learn about your local flora and fauna and to do something positive at the same time.
      Ginny Stibolt recently posted..The holidays in Florida

      Reply
  5. Ellen Folts says:

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder. These are resolutions people can actually keep and will really make a difference. If we all concentrated on our own little part of the world just think how much good could be accomplished.

    Reply
    • Ginny Stibolt says:

      Yes, thats what I thought, too. Just a few items on the 2014 to-do list for each of us could really add up.
      Ginny Stibolt recently posted..The holidays in Florida

      Reply

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  1. 6 easy steps to support wildlife in 2014 | Plan... says:

    [] This is the season to make resolutions for the upcoming year. Some are easy to keep, especially when you have a firm and attainable goal in mind where the results are so rewarding.  []

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  2. 6 easy steps to support wildlife in 2014 | Help... says:

    [] d) Choose your new plants with wildlife in mind. Install plants that will: have berries throughout the winter for birds, have tubular flowers for hummingbirds, supply larval food for butterflies and moths, provide nectar and pollen for bees and   []

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