President’s View: Honoring 45 Years of Garden for Wildlife

From backyards to schoolyards to entire cities, Certified Wildlife Habitats are helping a host of species

  • Collin O’Mara, President & Chief Executive Officer of the National Wildlife Federation
  • Conservation
  • Apr 01, 2018

Collin O’Mara joined NWF affiliate New Jersey Audubon to help celebrate certification of Cape Island, New Jersey, as a Community Wildlife Habitat.™

“WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?” It’s a question I’m often asked when traveling the nation advocating for wildlife. My answer often surprises people: Plant native plants—at home, at work, at schools, everywhere. Why? Because we can only save America’s wildlife by restoring and reconnecting habitat, starting in our own backyards.

For 45 years, the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife™ program has been teaching people how to help wildlife by providing food, water, cover and places to raise young—simple steps that create habitat to help species thrive. What started with a few backyards has grown into a nationwide network of 217,000 Certified Wildlife Habitats® and a movement of more than 4 million Americans providing wildlife habitat to transform America’s landscapes yard by yard, city by city.

We’re proud to work with hundreds of thousands of volunteers supporting this effort. That includes people like Becky Hassebroek of Fairbanks, Alaska, who created the Bee a Wildlife Action Hero initiative to recognize members of National Garden Clubs Inc. for creating Certified Wildlife Habitats and participating in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge™. Michael Korb of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, works with groups to plant milkweed and other pollinator plants near abandoned coal mines. And 9-year-old Kedar Narayan, youth ambassador of the National Pollinator Garden Network™, invented a Pollinator Planting app to encourage less use of chemicals and limits on turf grass.

These are just a few heroes of the Garden for Wildlife program, which also includes 8,000 outdoor classrooms, nearly 200 communities and more than 350 cities gardening for wildlife.

My own family was amazed to see almost immediate results as butterflies, birds, bees and other pollinators arrived after we planted flowering bee balm, milkweed, black-eyed Susans and other native plants in our garden. In fact, studies show that such intentional planting to attract wildlife creates habitat with two times the amount and diversity of wildlife than traditionally landscaped yards.

Making a difference begins by stepping outside and planting that first native seed. I hope you’ll join us, our affiliates and partners as we work to reverse the decline of wildlife species by inspiring all Americans to garden for wildlife.

Learn more about Garden for Wildlife milestones at

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Follow Collin O’Mara on Twitter at To share your thoughts and opinions, email him at

More from National Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation:

About the National Wildlife Federation »
Nine Tips for Gardening With Kids »
Connecting Millions to Nature »
May is NWF's Gardening Month »
Get National Wildlife's Gardening Book: Tips for Seasons »
Our Work: Protecting Wildlife, Inspiring Future Generations »

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