What You Can Do
Your neighborhood has witnessed a mass exodus of wildlife during the last 400 years but these animals can come back. They need your help, however. Supporting the creation and maintenance of wildlife habitat not only helps animals obtain the water, food, shelter and space that they need. It can also help your neighborhood derive the ecological benefits of years past due to the typical nature of these habitats. Often comprised of natural systems, urban wildlife habitat introduces more producers, consumers and decomposers to a city environment, thereby increasing nutrient cycling, an important component for an ecologically healthy landscape. It therefore provides many ecosystem services that we need such as clean water and air, climate and disturbance regulation, erosion control, soil formation, waste treatment, pollination and raw materials. Wildlife habitat also promotes human health and has enormous economic, aesthetic, recreational and educational rewards.
There are a number of things you can do to support wildlife habitat in your neighborhood.
- Take initiative to "clean and green" neighborhood vacant lots in order to convert them into community gardens, tree nurseries, meadows, greenways, pastures for grazing animals, biofuel production farms, storm water management systems or urban forests, all which have great potential for providing wildlife with viable habitat.
- Support the addition of wildlife habitat to the roadsides in your neighborhood. If landscaped correctly, these roads not only can increase habitat available for animals, but they can provide avenues through which wildlife can move from one habitat patch to another.
- A typical house's yard has great potential to become a wildlife habitat and, if connected to other yards in the community, the potential rises exponentially. Choose landscaping techniques in your yard that are wildlife-friendly, such as planting native vegetation, adding water sources, avoiding pesticides and removing fences in order to give animals room to roam. The addition of snags, nest boxes, and rock and brush piles provides animals with shelter and areas for perching and roosting.
- Lend your support for cemeteries and parks to be retrofitted into ecosystems supportive of diverse wildlife species, such as wildflower meadows and forests.
- Schoolyards can also support wildlife. Get involved in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's or National Wildlife Federation's schoolyard habitat programs in which children design habitat-friendly landscaping for their schoolyards.
- Modify buildings with green walls and green roofs. It turns otherwise unused space into valuable habitat.
- Support initiatives to create more park areas with ecological integrity. Such initiatives may include closing streets, decking highways and forming partnerships with utility companies for use of their right-of-ways.
- Support methods of urban development that can prevent a wide range of adverse ecological effects and protect aquatic and terrestrial ecological integrity, such as low impact urban design and development, low impact development and water sensitive urban design. Support the installation of green infrastructure such as rain gardens, vegetated swales and storm water planters. They can be built in ways which provide animals with habitat while at the same time treating storm water naturally.