From coast to coast, cities and their residents are taking action to create and protect habitat for local wildlife
Reston, VA – The National Wildlife Federation is honoring the nation’s most wildlife-friendly cities as part of its 81st annual National Wildlife Week.
Wildlife in urban and suburban areas face tremendous stress as we chop down trees, plant yards, drain wetlands, install storm water systems, erect buildings and pave roads. Wildlife need our help to survive. In our “Top 10 Cities for Wildlife,” we recognize cities that are not only taking direct action to help wildlife, but their residents are also creating wildlife habitat in their backyards, balconies, at schools and throughout their communities.
“To save the thousands of species at heightened risk of extinction, we need every American doing their part,” explained Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Cities like these demonstrate how wildlife-friendly practices can easily be adopted into any community by taking tangible actions that benefit local wildlife on any scale. We are excited to see this momentum continue and we encourage more communities to join the effort.”
The National Wildlife Federation’s Urban Wildlife Program ranked America’s 100 largest cities based on several important criteria for wildlife, including the amount of parkland within the city, participation in urban wildlife programs and citizen action measured by citizen participation in the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program. Certified Wildlife Habitats™ are properties that provide all the necessary elements for wildlife to survive – food, water, cover and places for wildlife to raise their young, while integrating sustainable gardening practices.
From the “City of Roses” to the “City in a Forest,” here’s a look at what makes these places great for wildlife, and how some new cities have worked to earn a spot on this coveted list.
- Austin, TX: Austin is number one on many top ten lists, but what could be more exciting than being the number one city for wildlife in the United States? Austin has more Certified Wildlife Habitats than any other city in the nation – 2,616, to be exact. The city is a signatory of the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge and a national leader in its efforts to restore habitat and improve city landscapes for the declining monarch butterfly. The city of Austin also promotes the creation and conservation of wildlife habitats through the Wildlife Austin program. Read more here.
- Atlanta, GA: The city of Atlanta’s Climate Action Plan includes a focus on expanding urban parks and green spaces within the city, as well as expanding tree canopy. This seems wise considering Atlanta is known as “The City in a Forest” for its large number of trees and its commitment to restoring urban tree canopy to support wildlife and communities. Atlanta currently has 1,002 Certified Wildlife Habitats, 63 of which are Schoolyard Habitats. The Atlanta Metro Area is home to 6 certified Community Wildlife Habitats, including Druid Hills, Chamblee, Roswell, Johns Creek, Alpharetta and Milton. Read more here.
- Portland, OR: Portland has some pretty impressive sustainability plans, such as the Climate Action Plan and the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, which aims to increase backyard gardens, biodiversity, and green infrastructure within the city. The Portland Area Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Program (PAWMAP) measures changes in habitat, water quality and biological communities, to help keep the City on track with its ambitious goals. The city is also home a many beautiful parks enjoyed by residents and wildlife, alike. Read more here.
- Indianapolis, IN: The city of Indianapolis has moved up from the number eight spot in 2015 to number four this year. This jump is due in large part to their now 1,101 Certified Wildlife Habitats, including 71 Schoolyard Habitats. The city’s Comprehensive Master Plan has the goal of expanding parkland through the city and creating trails for the community and healthy habitats for urban wildlife. Read more here.
- Chula Vista, CA: The city of Chula Vista is new to our list this year. Sustainability plans such as the City Operations Sustainability Plan, the Chula Vista Vision 2020 Environmental Element, and the City of Chula Vista MSCP Subarea Plan promote both physical and environmental health, addressing issues that affect open space, biological resources, mineral resources, and air and water quality. Chula Vista’s NatureScape program promotes the creation of wildlife-friendly gardens. Read more here.
- Cincinnati, OH: The city of Cincinnati is also a newcomer to list, with its Green Cincinnati Plan that includes a goal to increase participation in outdoor recreation and nature awareness by 20 percent. Cincinnati is also home to the Cincinnati Nature Center as well as the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, which both play a key role in biodiversity conservation by educating the community on ways to preserve wildlife. Read more here.
- Seattle, WA: The city of Seattle currently has a total of 974 Certified Wildlife Habitats, including 33 Schoolyard Habitats. Sustainability plans such as the Seattle Climate Action Plan and the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan promise to invest in restoring green spaces, creeks and special urban environmental areas. Thirty different communities have joined NWF’s Community Wildlife Habitat program across the Seattle Metro Area. Read more here.
- Charlotte, NC: The city of Charlotte currently has 1,141 Certified Wildlife Habitats, 45 of which are Schoolyard Habitats. Charlotte is a signatory of the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, with 11 action items committed to protect monarch butterflies, and is also certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat. The North Carolina Wildlife Federation also provides programs such as The Butterfly Highway, an initiative that aims to restore native pollinator habitats to areas impacted by urbanization. Read more here.
- Raleigh, NC: The city of Raleigh has a total of 558 Certified Wildlife Habitats, including 19 Schoolyard Habitats. Like its neighbor city, Charlotte, Raleigh is also involved in North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s Butterfly Highway initiative. In addition, the city has around 170 parks, making up roughly 11% of the municipality. Read more here.
- Washington, DC: Washington’s sustainability plans such as the Sustainable DC, the 2015 District of Columbia Wildlife Action Plan, and Climate Ready DC work in the area with the goal to protect and restore wetlands, waterways, and aquatic ecosystems as well as providing parkland and natural spaces. The city also has 278 Certified Wildlife Habitats. Read more here.
The National Wildlife Federation is also acknowledging important wildlife conservation work happening in the following honorable mention cities: Los Angeles, CA; Baltimore, MD; Denver, CO; Missoula, MT; Brooklyn, NY; Houston, TX; Detroit, MI and Broward County, FL.