Your Yard Can Become a Certified Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation

I visited the garden of a new friend earlier this year and noticed a flag she had posted calling her space a “certified wildlife habitat”.

“How did you do that?”, I wanted to know. She revealed that you could certify your yard with the National Wildlife Federation, and encouraged me to check out their website for more info. I quickly decided to figure out what criteria we needed to meet and make that happen.

The more I learn about gardening and permaculture, the more I realize that developing a really well designed permaculture system isn’t just about the plants and the soil. Wildlife plays a crucial part of maintaining the larger ecosystem and managing some local challenges you might be facing on your own property. In light of this, incorporating more native plants and welcoming some of the critters I used to throw shade at (before I knew better) has become a driving force for me this year.

Native plants are adapted to the weather and soil conditions, require less irrigation and fertilizer than imports. Another important benefit to using native plants in the landscape is that they support local wildlife species as both host plants for their young and food sources for adult insects and animals. As a new member of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey and a Certified Master Naturalist, I’ve learned a lot about natives and have applied my knowledge of permaculture to develop presentations about NJ native edible plants. While researching these well adapted edibles, I’ve increasingly begun to incorporate as many into our property as I can.

Honestly, I knew I probably met most of the requirements for certification already so when I discovered that I could get an important and official looking plaque to display, I was excited to spread awareness in my neighborhood. Wildlife conservation IS important… and I’m a sucker for a pretty plaque.

For your yard to qualify for certification, you have to meet some criteria. Thankfully, NWF provides a handy checklist on their site. Does your yard meet the requirements? You must provide adequate resources in the form of:

  • FOOD

You can find details about the requirements and apply for certification at

Wildlife can help control unwanted infestations and populations

I think encouraging wildlife in your yard is important because we have to look at our environment holistically if we want to create healthy solutions to inconvenient truths. Humans don’t love mosquitoes or ticks invading our outdoor areas. The inclination of many people is to find an insecticide to spray in the spaces we want to enjoy… we have to protect our kids and pets, don’t we? We will do whatever it takes! The problem with this knee jerk reaction is that the chemicals in these sprays are harmful and toxic… they are poison, intended to kill living things. How can we assume, just because the manufacturer says so, that they are safe for the other living things, our loved ones, that use the area?

What should we do instead to control the over-population problem of harmful insects in our yards?

We need to invite their predators to hunt for them! What eats insects? Birds, frogs, other bugs and spiders! A healthy environment with lots of welcoming habitat will balance predator/prey populations so that infestations are kept in check and we can lessen our need for toxic chemicals. On top of that, your upgraded landscape will likely feature beautiful blooms for you to enjoy and wildlife to entertain you and your family! My kids and I are delighted to find toads hopping through the garden beds or a nest of baby birds tucked safely into the branches of a tree.

Here are some photos of to inspire you to add wildlife habitat to your yard!