Garden for Wildlife

Support wildlife and clean water by creating a certified wildlife habitat and native garden!

Actions taken in your own yard to attract wildlife and protect our aquatic habitats can provide a wide range of benefits that reach far beyond our local waterways. What you do in your yard can affect not only the local wildlife, but also the soil and water quality of the surrounding and downstream areas.

Currently, the biggest threat to our nation’s water is contaminated runoff from yards, farms, roadways and construction sites, otherwise known as non-point source pollution. When you use sustainable gardening practices, you can help improve water and soil quality while also providing habitats for wildlife!

Click here to download the Wildlife Habitat Application


Frequently Asked Questions

What is NWF’s certified wildlife habitat program?

A program that has been helping people nurture wildlife in their own back yard for nearly 40 years. By certifying your backyard habitat, you can show everyone that your yard is helping provide valuable habitat for wildlife!

What components make up a certified wildlife habitat?

Certifying a site is as simple as providing the main habitat components—food, water, cover and places to raise young—and practicing sustainable gardening techniques, such as eliminating pesticides, conserving water and planting native species.

Who can certify?

Any site can be recognized as a certified habitat, regardless of size—whether it’s your backyard, local park, schoolyard, rooftop garden or corporate landscape.

What are the benefits of certification?

Aside from offering wildlife a wonderful place to thrive, you'll be eligible for the following benefits:

  • A certificate for your wildlife habitat
  • A window cling to display your commitment to wildlife conservation and the environment
  • A free one-year membership to NWF, which includes a subscription to National Wildlife® magazine
  • A subscription to NWF’s Garden for Wildlife e-newsletter
  • A subscription to the National Aquarium’s monthly conservation e-newsletter
  • An attractive yard sign to designate your yard as wildlife-friendly

Wildlife Certification Terms

Stormwater Runoff

Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snowmelt events flows over land or impervious surfaces and does not percolate into the ground. As the runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces (paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops), it accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if the runoff is discharged untreated (Definition according to the EPA)

Native plant

Native plants (also called indigenous plants) are plants that have evolved over thousands of years in a particular region. They have adapted to the geography, hydrology, and climate of that region. Native plants occur in communities, that is, they have evolved together with other plants. As a result, a community of native plants provides habitat for a variety of native wildlife species such as songbirds and butterflies. (Definition according to the EPA)

Non-Native Plant

Non-native plants (also called non-indigenous plants, invasive plants, exotic species, or weeds) are plants that have been introduced into an environment in which they did not evolve. Introduction of non-native plants into our landscape has been both accidental and deliberate. In general, aggressive, non-native plants have no enemies or controls to limit their spread. As they move in, complex native plant communities, with hundreds of different plant species supporting wildlife, will be converted to a monoculture. This means the community of plants and animals is simplified, with most plant species disappearing, leaving only the non-native plant population intact. Native plants are unable to compete for available sunlight, water, and nutrients. Areas infested with non-native plants lose as much as 50% of their original native plant populations. This limits the variety of food and cover available to birds and may cause the birds to move or disappear from a region altogether. (Definition according to the EPA)

BayScaping or Conservation Landscaping

Using native plants, removing invasive plants, conserving water, eliminating or reducing chemical fertilizers and pesticides to reduce pollution and conserve resources. BayScaping also includes shaping the ground for better infiltration and to control erosion and enhancing aesthetics and wildlife habitat. (Definition from Chesapeake Ecology Center)

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