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

In partnership with the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program, the National Aquarium is working to increase habitat for backyard wildlife species and protect pollinator populations—and you can help by creating a wildlife habitat! You can make a difference by inviting wildlife back to your own yard or neighborhood by planting a simple garden that provides five key elements: food, water, cover, places to raise young and sustainable practices.

Every habitat garden is a step toward replenishing resources for wildlife in Maryland. Your $20 application fee supports National Wildlife Federation (NWF) programs that not only restore habitat for bees, butterflies, birds, amphibians and other animals, but also benefit Maryland wildlife in other ways.


Do you have questions about certifying your garden as a wildlife habitat?

Frequently Asked Questions

NWF has been helping people nurture wildlife where they live, learn, work, play and worship since 1973. By certifying your backyard habitat, you can show everyone that your yard is helping provide valuable habitat for wildlife. If you provide five basic components, birds and other wildlife will show up! It’s that simple!

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.

Maryland’s diverse range of habitat types makes it a prime destination for many species, and your certified habitat provides much needed resources to support local wildlife. Due to its position along the Atlantic Flyway, Maryland provides food or places to rest for almost 500 species of birds. In addition, more than 200 species of birds nest here. Imperiled monarch butterflies can be found across the state in the summer; they need native milkweed for their young and nectar from our native flowers for fuel before they migrate south for the winter. Your sustainable garden practices will help provide clean water for many unique and valuable fish species, which depend on Maryland’s many miles of waterways.

Anyone who wishes to build a wildlife habitat that provides all five necessary components can certify! Homes, businesses, parks, schools and places of worship are all examples of acceptable places to certify a habitat.

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

  • Inclusion in the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat® national network
  • A personalized certificate for your wildlife habitat
  • An optional press release to share with your local media about your achievement
  • A subscription to the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife newsletter
  • A free one-year membership to the National Wildlife Federation, which includes a subscription to National Wildlife® magazine
  • A 10% discount on nesting boxes, feeders, birdbaths and other products from the National Wildlife Federation catalog
  • Eligibility to purchase and post an attractive yard sign to display your commitment to wildlife and the environment
  • A subscription to the National Aquarium’s conservation e-newsletter

A $20 non-refundable application fee is required for certification. This application fee is waived for habitats at schools serving students from pre-K through grade 12.

After certifying your habitat, you are eligible to purchase a sign to designate your yard as wildlife friendly! Show your commitment to helping local wildlife by displaying this sign in your newly certified habitat.

Wildlife Certification Terms

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. (Source: Environmental Protection Agency)

Native plants (also called indigenous plants) have evolved over thousands of years in a 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. (Source: Environmental Protection Agency)

Non-native plants (also called non-indigenous plants, invasive plants, exotic species or weeds) 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. (Source: Environmental Protection Agency)

Conservation landscaping involves using native plants, removing invasive plants, conserving water and 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 while enhancing aesthetics and wildlife habitat within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. (Source: Chesapeake Ecology Center)