Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Homeowners Turning Yards into Wilds

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Homeowners Turning Yards into Wilds

Article excerpt

Byline: Amelia A. Hart, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

People from all over the world come to Nassau County, one of the stops on the Great Florida Birding Trail, for a chance to see a painted bunting, Amelia Island resident Evy McGinness said.

All she has to do is look out her kitchen window.

"We had two pairs last year," McGinness said.

Beautiful birds, colorful butterflies and other creatures are frequent visitors to McGinness' yard. That's because she's designed the quarter-acre garden to include the food, shelter and water needed to be a wildlife habitat.

Now she's filed the paperwork to have her garden certified by the National Wildlife Federation under its 31-year-old Backyard Wildlife Habitat program.

If approved, McGinness's yard will become the 14th certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat in Nassau County. As of April, there were 40,300 such habitats across the United States and six other countries.

Vivian and Michael Meriweather's yard at their O'Neal home has been certified as a habitat for about 12 years, she said.

"It gives us a lot of pleasure in seeing the wildlife," she said. "My husband says it's like O'Hare Field, there are so many birds in the morning and the afternoon."

According to the federation's Web site, the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program was started in 1973 as a way to encourage people to landscape and garden with an eye to creating habitat for wildlife. Habitat loss is the No. 1 threat to wildlife, according to the environmental organization.

Certified back yards have to include four essentials required by all species to survive: food, water, shelter and places to raise young.

Those striving to create a habitat also need to practice resource conservation methods such as using native plants, establishing backyard wetlands or drainage buffer areas to filter storm water and limit runoff, using mulch to conserve soil moisture and cut down on weeding time, eliminating chemical use and controlling pests organically. …

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