Presidents View: Take Pride in Planting for Pollinators

Gardening can make a big difference for wildlife

  • Collin O’Mara, President & Chief Executive Officer
  • Gardening
  • Mar 30, 2016

I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR. Chipmunks emerge from hibernation. Birds and frogs lay eggs. Bees get busy seeking pollen. Each of these creatures relies on specific habitat, yet suitable native habitat is shrinking due to development, damaging chemicals and loss of grasslands and wetlands to crops. But each of us can help restore habitat by providing food, water, cover and places for wildlife to raise their young.

I learned about the importance of wildlife-friendly gardening years ago when I helped my mother transform her yard into an NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat®. We installed birdbaths and planted bee balm, milkweed and berry bushes for birds and insects. I now pay forward these fond memories with my daughter, Riley, who delights in identifying the butterflies, birds and bees that call our backyard habitat home.

Such individual actions matter—and we need thousands more people to do their part to help address trends such as the collapse of bee colonies and the 90 percent decline in monarch butterfly populations. The National Wildlife Federation is proud to be leading support for the cause. For example, the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, announced at the White House last June, is inspiring Americans to create sustainable, pollinator-friendly habitat. This ambitious campaign is part of the National Pollinator Garden Network, co-founded by NWF along with the American Public Gardens Association, AmericanHort, American Seed Trade Association, Pollinator Partnership, National Garden Bureau and National Gardening Association.

Many others are doing their part as well. Dozens of mayors have already signed on to our Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, launched last year to encourage cities to create pollinator habit. Entire states, such as Texas and Missouri, are adopting monarch-conservation plans. And through its Bee a Wildlife Action Hero program, National Garden Clubs Inc. is encouraging its members to create and certify habitat gardens.

Each of us can garden for wildlife where we live, work, play, learn and worship—a grassroots movement that’s growing. Since NWF launched its Certified Wildlife Habitat program in 1973, our members, affiliates and partners have created some 200,000 certified habitats. And this year we launched a new website ( to offer more guidance on how to garden for wildlife—with an unprecedented new tool that identifies native plants by zip code.

I hope you’ll join us this spring to garden for wildlife, which can nourish the soul, add beauty to life and inspire future conservationists.

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More from National Wildlife magazine and NWF:

Read More About NWF President and CEO Collin O'Mara
Our Work: Habitats
Redefining Curb Appeal with Native Plants
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