Garden for Wildlife: Certified Wildlife Habitats

The Montana Wildlife Federation is teaming up with National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program to transform backyards, school grounds, places of worship, businesses, and community spaces in Billings into Certified Wildlife Habitats. Since 1973, the Garden for Wildlife program has empowered people to invite wildlife back into their neighborhoods by converting their gardens, both large and small, urban and rural, into habitat for local pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. Every habitat garden is a step toward replenishing resources for wildlife throughout Montana’s watersheds, forests, and urban areas.

The Montana Wildlife Federation recognizes that in order to ensure thriving populations of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife for future generations, we need to protect the habitat conditions upon which these species depend. In spending free time along rivers and lakes, and on public land, Billings outdoor enthusiasts are able to clearly witness the adverse effects of pollution, runoff, and fragmented and degraded habitats. By creating wildlife gardens and cultivating native plants in our community, we are helping to prevent a continued decline in habitats and ultimately provide a healthier place for people and wildlife to call home.

What is a Certified Wildlife Habitat?

A certified wildlife habitat uses sustainable gardening practices to provide food, water, cover, and places to raise young for local wildlife. There are currently 26 homes, one school, and four common areas in Billings that are already certified under the program. The goal of the new initiative is to build upon those numbers and eventually to have the entire community certified. When that occurs, Billings will join Missoula, which was certified in 2017, and 95 other cities, towns, counties and neighborhoods across the nation.

By pursuing this status, Billings is sending a clear message about how much the community values wildlife, wild places. Registration is just the first step of an exciting journey to empower Billings homeowners, businesses, schools and universities, places of worship, parks, and community-based organizations to take action for wildlife.

Creating your Wildlife Habitat

To certify, your wildlife habitat must provide foodwatercover, and places to raise young while using sustainable gardening practices. Use this easy checklist to determine which components your garden already provides. When you are ready to certify, you can do so online or download the brochure application and mail it in.

  • Food: Grow native plants to provide sources of food year-round for birds, butterflies, other pollinators, and wildlife species.
  • Water: All animals need water to survive, and some need it for bathing or breeding. Try providing a bird bath, a shallow water dish, pond, or rain garden.
  • Cover: Wildlife needs places to find shelter from bad weather and to hide from predators. Your garden habitat might include a rock pile, roosting box, or logs.
  • Places to Raise Young: Wildlife requires secure places to raise their young, such as nests, nooks, and crannies in rocks, or brush piles.
  • Sustainable Practices: The gardening practices you use at home, in your garage, and in your yard can affect the health of the soil, air, water, and habitat.

For more information and ideas on how to incorporate these 5 key elements into your habitat, check out these resources.

Does your outdoor space already provide these wildlife-friendly elements? Certify your garden today!

If you are creating a new garden, design it with wildlife in mind. For more information on creating your habitat garden, go to the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife website, or use the resources listed below.

Contact the Education and Outreach Coordinator at liz@mtwf.org with any questions.