Nassau Master gardener’s yard recognized as a wildlife habitat

 

Her landscaping is recognized for the NWF honor

Posted 14 July 2011, by Shakaya Andres, The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), jacksonville.com

On any given day, bees, humming birds, butterflies and other wildlife find refuge in Fernandina Beach master gardener Bea Walker’s yard, where tall crepe myrtles, bush daisies and other plants are in full bloom.

It’s a place where the creatures can find food, water, shelter and raise their young – the basic elements that all wildlife needs to survive.

Those characteristics recently led to its recognition by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as a wildlife habitat site.

The recognition is an honor for Walker, an active master gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS).

It also feels good knowing that animals are being provided for while she gets to enjoy 10 years of work in her garden.

“It makes you feel good to see something growing that is pretty,” said Walker. “Having a nice environment and caring for our outside is an extension of our home.”

Nationwide, about 140,000 wildlife habitat yards are certified, not counting the roughly 3,000 schools and hundreds of business and community sites. Each site represents the hard work and commitment of individuals and families who provide an animal habitat near their home.

People who achieve certification receive membership in NWF, including a one-year subscription to the award-winning National Wildlife magazine featuring wildlife articles and nature photography. They also receive a personalized certificate, quarterly e-newsletters and are eligible to purchase a special outdoor sign designating their yard or garden as wildlife-friendly.

“What’s really nice is it indicates that you have created a yard just not for yourself, but for the animals,” Walker said. “We’re all in this world together. You don’t have to be a master gardener to become designated, it’s real easy to do.”

In past years, Walker said she had heard about yard designations, but until recently she hadn’t researched it to see what was necessary to become certified. On the site www.nwf.org, there’s a list of questions potential designees must satisfy to be designated. Questions include habitat size, type and its description.

For many years as a carer person, Walker never had time to really devote to caring for plants until after she retired, but that didn’t affect her love for plants.

Plants were part of the decor in her home while she was growing up. Now she has a yard that’s fully decorated with trees, shrubs and other plants and is home to wildlife.

“It’s something that has always interested me,” she said. “I just didn’t have the time or opportunity. It’s nice seeing nature. I say to God, ‘Look what we did.'”

In addition to providing a yard for wildlife, certified habitats conserve the natural resources by reducing or eliminating the need for fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation water, which ultimately protects the air, soil and water throughout communities, biologists said.

Urban environments are an important factor in the future conservation of many species, said University of Florida biologist Mark Hostetier.

“Not only has urban sprawl grown into the paths of stopover sites on bird flyways, but the sheer volume of human development has changed the amount of area available for nesting and overwintering,” he said.

Creating habitats not only helps wildlife, it can help reduce global warming pollution. Burning fossil fuels to heat and cool homes and maintain lawns releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.

Unlike lawns, wildlife-friendly native plants don’t need constant maintenance from gas-guzzling lawn mowers or fertilizers that require fossil fuels to manufacture, biologists said.

Walker hopes more people will become wildlife-friendly habitat enthusiasts across the country.

“It becomes a form of education,” she said. “Hopefully, people can go online and find out more about it.”

Any habitat enthusiast can create a certified habitat and learn the rewards of gardening for wildlife. Habitats not only nurture year-round resident birds but also migratory birds by providing stopover sites for birds traveling between their summer and winter ranges.

For more information on how to get your yard wildlife habitat certified, visit www.nwf.org, then click on certified wildlife habitat under Garden for Wildlife.

Ed Note: Please visit the original site to view photographs associated with this article.
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