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How to Be A Habitat Hero

A garden can be a pleasure, a personal sanctuary that nurtures and sustains you, even as you nurture it. A garden can bring you home, reconnecting you to the intricate community of life that animates this beautiful Earth, our home. --Susan J. Tweit, The Rocky Mountain Garden Survival Guide  
Habitat Hero Garden sign
Habitat heroes are people who practice a form of landscape stewardship called "wildscaping," landscaping designed to provide habitat for wildlife, large and small. Whether the landscape you tend is a home yard, a few pots on a balcony, a public park or schoolyard garden, or a farm or orchard, habitat heroes believe in growing a healthy community.
A xeric bed at Legacy Ridge Golf Course--a surprising mix of plants that provides beautiful habitat. Photo: Shalene Hiller

Wildscaping Basics

  • Plant bird- and butterfly-friendly species for year-round food, cover and shelter;
  • Use less water (and thus less energy) by planting natives and regionally adapted plants;
  • Reduce lawn areas--grow edibles, perennials, and trees and shrubs where appropriate
  • Reduce or eliminate chemical use to make a more sustainable and healthier world for all of us.
  • Control invasive plants that degrade habitat in and beyond our yards.
Even small patches of wildscape can provide oases for wildlife like butterflies and native bees by creating green corridors that link your wildscape to larger wild lands.
American goldfinch feeds on sunflowers.

How to Become a Habitat Hero

The Habitat Hero program is for optimists--people who believe that the things they do can have positive impacts on the world around them. It's for people like you who know their landscape is a place where they can get closer to nature because it's part of the vibrant web of life that surrounds us. Linking your yard to the wilder world isn't hard. The first step is to recognize that we can make more room for flapping wings and paw prints by simply softening our own footprints on the earth. Begin the transformation of your landscape by following the basic wildscaping principles above. Then comes the exciting part of building positive connections between your landscape and the surrounding landscape by cultivating native and regionally adapted plants, and using them in ways that mimic surrounding wild habitats to create mini-oases for birds and other wildlife. Apply to have your landscape recognized as a "Habitat Hero" wildscape.
Native meadow front yard

Saving energy--your own and the planet's, reducing maintenance, and still having a beautiful landscape: That's wildscaping.

As it turns out, what's good for birds, butterflies and other wildlife tends to be good for people, too. Transforming our yards from highly managed lawns to wilder landscapes can keep our maintenance costs and time down, while creating opportunities for our families and friends to enjoy and learn about nature. And we can do all this while maintaining a landscape that is attractive, fun and beautiful.
A path wanders through a colorful Habitat Hero garden in Erie, Colorado. (Did you spot the female goldfinch on the feeder?)

Your landscape can contribute to a continent-wide mosaic of wildlife habitat

According to the EPA, residential lawns (not including parks, commercial landscapes or industrial areas) cover more than 20 million acres in the United States. If all those yards were transformed into small habitat patches, the additional wildlife habitat would be comparable to increasing the area of the entire National Wildlife Refuge system by twenty percent! The wildlife benefits would be enormous, and we'd all experience the joy of doing something positive for nature and our environment.
Colorado Wildscapes Guide
For more information on wildscaping, buy a copy of Colorado Wildscapes, a full-color, spiral bound how-to book.

How you can help, right now