Washtenaw County has always taken its environment seriously. Now, it is the first county in Michigan to be certified as a community wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair chats with Mary Lapp, team leader of the Washtenaw Wilderness Community Wildlife Habitat, about what it takes for a community to receive such an honor.
- Mary Lapp, a volunteer for NWF, founded the “Washtenaw Wilderness” in 2013. Today, 400 homes, 49 common areas, and 12 schools in Washtenaw County have been certified by the National Wildlife Federation as Community Wildlife Habitats. In 2018, Washtenaw County became the first county in Michigan to achieve this certification.
- The motto of the Washtenaw Wilderness is, “Anyone can create habitat.” The National Wildlife Federation’s CWH program helps to,“enhance and restore islands and corridors of wildlife habitat in urban and suburban areas nationwide.” Participants agree to make changes of their properties that benefit wildlife, such as planting native plants, providing water and places for animals to raise young, choosing not to spray pesticides, or use petrochemical fertilizers.
- The Washtenaw Wilderness also partnered with community organizations and leaders to educate the community about the needs of wildlife and their conservation. Our team includes Rep. Yousef Rabhi, who has is currently working on a package of bills in the state Legislature to preserve water resources in Michigan. Another partner, Washtenaw County Parks and Rec, gave away thousands of native trees and flower seedlings as part of the effort to encourage habitat creation on private property. Another partner, Ann Arbor’s NAP program, is working to create safe, quality pollinator habitat in local parks.
- It is not too late to join the Washtenaw Wilderness! Simply visit the Community Wildlife Habitat page for NWF, and register your home, school, business, park, church, or community space. (A Washtenaw County zip code automatically enrolls you.) You simply need to provide food resources (butterfly hosts plants, bird feeders, etc...), a water resource, shelter, and places to raise young on your property. One way to meet many of these needs is to create a snag or “wildlife tree” by leaving a portion of the trunk of a dead or dying tree standing. Another great way is by planting a native plant garden that contains the host plants of local butterflies, such as milkweed for Monarch butterflies.
- If you would like to visit a certified habitat, Thurston Nature Area (another Washtenaw Wilderness partner) and the Zeeb Rd. office of the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner are members of the Washtenaw Wilderness, or you can contact the Wild Ones, Ann Arbor Chapter, to tour certified private properties during a garden tour.
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