Get Your Yard Certified as a Wildlife Sanctuary

By Janene Cullen, PhD

Northern Virginia is a critical habitat for many species of birds, insects, and plants. However, due to loss of native habitat and chemical use, there has been a 70% decline in our common backyard birds since 1967. The bee population has also been in a steep decline across the nation for the last decade. Without the pollination these creatures provide, we cannot have vegetables, fruits, or nuts. Northern Virginia continues to lose a staggering amount of acres of native habitat to urban sprawl, meaning there is nothing to eat and nowhere for these animals to find shelter. However, Northern Virginia residents can make a difference; property owners can create an environmentally-friendly habitat in their own yards.

The Audubon Society has created an Audubon at Home Wildlife Sanctuary program that is open to all properties in Northern Virginia. It can help you create an environmentally-friendly landscape in your yard, neighborhood, school, church, or business. Even a modest-sized property that includes native plants can significantly increase the number and species of breeding birds.

If interested, please contact the Prince William Master Gardeners at 703-792-7747 or, and request information regarding the Audubon at Home Wildlife Sanctuary program. This is a free service offered by your County Master Gardeners and the Audubon Society. You will be contacted by a local Audubon Ambassador coordinator who will schedule a visit to your location and help you design a healthy native plant habitat that will attract and shelter beneficial wildlife. Once several species on the wildlife sanctuary list (birds, butterflies, and amphibians) start visiting your property, you will have a certified Wildlife Sanctuary. For a small fee you can even request a Wildlife Sanctuary sign to display on your property.

While you are waiting for your visit, you can get started by reviewing a pamphlet by the Virginia Cooperative Extension called “For the Birds, Hummingbirds and Butterflies: Creating Inviting Habitats.” Visit Ext.VT.Edu, and in the search bar type: HORT-59. Click, and the pamphlet will be your first option on the left hand side.

Homeowners, landscapers, and local policy makers can benefit birds and other wildlife,  simply by selecting native plants when making their landscaping decisions. The local birds and pollinators need your help! Contact the Audubon Ambassadors today.

About the Author:

Janene Cullen has lived in Haymarket for 16 years. As a retired Military Officer, this is the longest she has ever lived in one location. She works full time for the Aerospace Corporation as a Satellite Engineer. She has been a Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer since 2006 and volunteers with the Master Gardeners of Prince William serving Prince William County, Manassas.

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