Inviting Nature to Your Backyard

Support the partnership of the National Aquarium and National Wildlife Federation in our movement to restore habitat across Maryland and beyond!

  • Conservation

A splash of native plants, a sprinkle of dirt and a dash of imagination are the first ingredients to transform your lawn or community green space into an inviting haven for wildlife. Through the incorporation of five key elements—food, water, cover, places to raise young and sustainable gardening practices—you can create a certified wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation and support the restoration of habitat in your backyard and beyond!

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, 85% of threatened or endangered species on the International Union of Conservation of Nature's Red List are impacted by habitat loss. In fact, it's the main threat to their survival. Forty million acres of land—around 2% of the total acreage of the continental United States—is constituted as grass lawns. Our manicured yards, parks and green spaces around businesses, schools and places of worship add to the problem of habitat loss. They also spur other issues for wildlife through the use of pesticides and insecticides that pollute our water and soil, and gas-powered lawn mowers that pollute the air. It's estimated that gas-powered lawn mowers generate 5% of the total air pollution in the U.S.

Luckily, you can help protect wildlife and nature in your community through a few easy steps. Wildlife gardens not only invite native species to return, but also sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, revitalize soil health, reduce erosion and require less maintenance than their grassy counterparts. Let's get started!

An Illustration of a Blue House on a Grassy Lawn That Says Creating a Habitat for Wildlife

Sustainable Gardening Categories

Category one includes soil and water conservation. Examples of this sustainable practice include using drip or soaker hoses, limiting water use, reducing erosion, using mulch or building a rain garden.

Category two concerns controlling invasive species. You can do this by practicing integrated pest management, using native plants, reducing lawn areas and removing non-native plants.

Category three entails utilizing organic practices, such as eliminating chemical pesticides or fertilizers and incorporating compost.

Protecting Our Vulnerable Wildlife

Congratulations! You now have all the tools to successfully build a garden that will invite wildlife while providing the necessary components needed for their survival. Want to go even further in protecting some of our most vulnerable species? Learn below how to integrate simple practices to sustain the populations of the monarch butterfly and create a simple toad abode!

Monarch Butterflies

From their bright orange and black wings to their signature white spots, the iconic monarch butterfly is an essential pollinator that also serves as an important food source to a variety of birds and small animals. They also are seasoned travelers, migrating to distances of 3,000 miles from North America to Mexico or California to overwinter.

Monarchs rely on one plant for their survival: milkweed. Milkweed is the only plant species that monarch caterpillars eat, and the only plant reproducing monarchs lay eggs on. As a result of milkweed habitat decline, monarch populations have dropped by about 90% in recent decades and were listed as endangered in 2022.

There are dozens of species of milkweed, with different species native to different areas of North America. By planting a species native to your area, you not only assist in the great migration and survival of monarchs, but provide pollen and habitat for other species, too!

Toad Abode

Amphibians come in many shapes, colors and sizes, from the mighty American bullfrog to the teeny, little grass frog. Many species of amphibians are considered indicator species, which are organisms that reflect the conditions of the environment around them. Amphibians, like frogs and toads, breathe through their skin, but can absorb other things like toxins or pollution. Additionally, the loss of valuable habitat to shelter or raise young further threatens their survival.

To welcome these critters to your garden, look no further than the toad abode! Start with a ceramic flowerpot and create a small hole or crack near the rim for access. Place the pot upside down directly on a shaded, grassy surface, preferably near a water source. Giving these hoppers a place in your garden has positive benefits for you, too—they reduce the need for chemical products by munching on insects, including harmful pests like mosquitos.

Certify Your Habitat

Think you're ready to certify your wildlife habitat at your home, school, business, local park or place of worship? Fill out the official application to support the partnership of the National Aquarium and National Wildlife Federation in our movement to restore habitat across Maryland and beyond. Additionally, the National Aquarium has advocated for legislation benefiting native plants for the past three years, helping pass legislation in April of 2023 that established the Maryland Native Plants Program. The program will put an emphasis on increasing the supply of native plants available for sale in nurseries and garden centers as well as focusing on public information stating the importance of these plants to local environments.

Due to Maryland's position along the Atlantic Flyway, our state provides food and places to rest for almost 500 species of birds. In the summer, monarch butterflies lay their eggs on native milkweed plants and fuel up on nectar from flowering plants before they begin their long migration. Additionally, we are home to a large portion of the Chesapeake Bay, which supports thousands of species of plants and animals. Certified wildlife habitats are essential to helping all the inhabitants of our state thrive, through cleaning the water that trickles into the Bay to feeding our feathered friends in the sky.

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