City of Austin Welcomes Wildlife

Austin becomes largest ‘Community Wildlife Habitat’ in U.S.

03-12-2009 // NWF Media Team

Austin, Texas has just become the largest city in the country and the first city in Texas to be certified as a community wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.

Community wildlife habitats provide food, water, cover, and places to raise young for wildlife throughout an entire community--in individual backyards, on school grounds and in public areas such as parks, community gardens, places of worship and businesses.

"Birds, butterflies and other wildlife need this kind of help to survive and thrive in urban areas," said Kevin Coyle, Vice-President for Education and Training at the National Wildlife Federation. "This program does more than just create sorely needed wildlife habitat. It also educates and inspires people to think about other ways they can live in closer harmony with the natural world."

More than 900 Austin residences are now NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat™ sites. In addition, 15 businesses, 25 school grounds, 4 church grounds, and 14 parks have been certified through the program.

"Two years ago, the City Council expressed our intent to have Austin become the first certified Community Wildlife Habitat in Texas," said Austin Mayor Will Wynn. "Austinites surpassed even the highest expectations and created hundreds of unique habitats, not only creating spaces for flora and fauna to thrive but also helping us to deliver on our goals for climate protection, water quality and water conservation."

Education is an important component of the Community Wildlife Habitat certification process. Numerous presentations, National Wildlife Federation Habitat Steward™ Volunteer trainings, and habitat restoration projects educated thousands of Austin residents about ways to provide habitat for wildlife even in urban areas.

"I'm proud to be one of the more than 900 homeowners who have discovered that having a garden filled with birds and butterflies is hardly a sacrifice," said Council Member Lee Leffingwell, who certified his own yard in 2007. "Our wildlife garden is an improvement to our house, and the fact that it saves water and requires less maintenance is a bonus."

The Community Wildlife Habitat project is part of NWF's Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program. These projects benefit plants, wildlife, and people through the creation of sustainable landscapes that require little or no pesticides, fertilizers, or excess watering. Habitat landscapes can serve to beautify urban areas and give residents pride in their neighborhoods. A Community Wildlife Habitat project multiplies this positive effect by creating multiple habitat areas in backyards, schoolyards, corporate properties, community gardens, parkland and other spaces.

City of Austin certified sites include the plaza at Austin City Hall, the Austin Nature and Science Center, Zilker Botanical Garden and Austin Water Utility's Center for Environmental Research. Certified habitats can also be found at Congregation Beth Israel, Bannockburn Baptist Church, Redeemer Lutheran School, Westwood High School, Oak Run Apartments, Natural Gardener and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Thirty-one other communities across the nation have been recognized with the Community Wildlife Habitat certification including Broward County, FL, Arlington County, VA, Sonoma County, CA, and Bloomington, IN. Since 1973, NWF has provided millions of people with the basic guidelines for making their landscapes more wildlife-friendly. There are over 113,000 certified habitat sites nationwide.

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