How about teaming with neighbors to make wildlife habitat?

National Wildlife Federation has a plan.

Below is a story from Nibley, in northern Utah (Cache Valley), about a man who wants to get Nibley certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. This is a plan other towns, or groups of neighbors could adopt where a fair number want to create and share wildlife habitat. Such a designation could also gradually affect buying and selling of property. 

The crabby people who want all their non-native, but maybe tasty plants kept inviolate could go to one part of town. Friends of wildlife could go to another.

See Homeowners in a northern utah town want property certified as wildlife habitat. By Ashton Goodell, Fox13. Salt Lake City, UT.






  1. Larry Avatar

    A very worthy endeavor. It does separate the pro-wildlifers from the ignorants. We live in a rural 30 acre development (I call it undevelopment because nature develops better than man could ever) of 8 homes. The county in the approval set aside areas of clearing easement whereby no disturbance is permitted. We were the first to build here and each year I have planted 100s of native conifers and some broad leaf to augment in the set aside area. Also I have greatly increased my set aside to nearly double what was required. The 7 neighbors have encroached, complained and firewood cut their way into the set aside area as far as they think they will get away with. I have shared Conservation District conifer seedlings with them thinking they will follow my example and plant but most just make a token attempt. As far as I can tell they are all repubs, some quite outspoken against the ESA for instance. Meanwhile I built a 10×10 cabin on stilts in the center of my woodlot where I go for my Henry David Thoreau moments. It is at the base of two 40 inch d.b.h. western red cedars surrounded by bigleaf maples, alders and a mix of other native vegetation. It is quiet, dark and cool, a perfect place to read, write this blog and just ponder and watch my birds, salamanders, rabbits etc. I spend more than a little time wondering why people would not “develop” their woodlots to the fullest and enjoy the peace they can have right out their backdoor. I fear that in the eight families here in this acreage it is much like the rest of society, only 1 in 8 can see the redeeming value wildness has. But then I fear that I am rather naïve and maybe it is more like 1 in 100 and I am lucky to only have 7 neighbors. My biggest thrill nowadays is to watch and listen to my grandkids playing in the woodlot and telling about nearly catching a rabbit or seeing a snake. When the sun goes down it is a whole new world to them. Oh my, how shallow a life not to play in the woods and we are never too old to do so.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      Oh my, how shallow a life not to play in the woods and we are never too old to do so.

      What a beautiful post!

    2. Mark L Avatar
      Mark L

      Here’s a community in the Huntsville, Alabama area that’s done a NWF community effort:

      (hope that url works)

      Ive had a house on Monte Sano since the mid 90’s, and am very proud of what they’ve done with the National Wildlife Federation.

      1. Mark L Avatar
        Mark L…/monte-sano-huntsville-alabama-celebrates-community- wildlife-habitat-certification

        or that

    3. skyrim Avatar

      Larry thank you for your inspirational thoughts. They largely echo my own. I own a very small building just slightly bigger than your own with 4 times that size in decks. It is carved out of a small clearing of Oak, Maples and a small number of Conifers.
      I continue to struggle with county authorities and the owners association over the Wildlands Urban Interface mandate that requires a large clearing around all buildings and improvements. While I see their reasoning, it is a risk that I am willing to take to exist in my little holding amongst the wildness. Some of my most memorable encounters with the critters have happened within this tiny space.

  2. Larry Avatar

    BTW the grandkids are proud of our certified wildlife habitat sign from the National Wildlife Federation. I think it is important for kids (adults too) to see that others recognize the importance of what they do.

  3. Kathleen Avatar

    I certified our place, too, and am grateful that we’ve been able to provide a beautiful native habitat for all the birds, insects, reptiles, and animals who use it (we even have bats living on our house). I agree that neighbors are the sticking point. There’s something to be said for communities planned around shared values. Here’s a pic of my ‘certified habitat’ sign with a little resident posing above it:

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      Thanks, Kathleen – I’ll have to look into doing this also.

      1. Kathleen Avatar

        Chances are good that you already have all the elements (food, water, cover, nesting/nursery sites), Ida. We did, but I enhanced them by adding additional water sources–we already had a hanging birdbath, but I got a water tub for the deer (thinking that if they could get a drink here, they wouldn’t go down to the highway and risk getting hit crossing to the creek; they’ve drained it on the hottest days), and keep a couple of plant saucers filled with water on the slab outside the kitchen (the wild turkeys were just at them). We keep a couple of permanent brush piles for cover and nesting. Our place is a grass and seed- and insect-eaters’ paradise.

  4. WM Avatar

    So, OK, at first glance, it works for me. Video showed some nice plants next to the nice green cut lawn, including apple trees, maybe some veggies. That will indeed draw some wildlife, if things are grown better with a little water and added fertilizer, maybe some shelter from the sun, wind or rain.

    So, what happens when the deer show up and hang around? You are trying to attract them, right? aybe a couple buck deer returning year after year or just hanging out in the shade on the north side of the house. Raccoons by the creek, or your water feature. Cool.

    But let’s look at the other side for a moment.

    Haven’t we been talking about food conditioned and habituated (unafraid of people), wildlife that get a little too cozy with their humans? So, you can live with them and want them there, but what about your neighbors two lots down, or even across a field a quarter mile away. Then animal control or the state wildlife folks come and relocate or dispatch the now “unwanted” wildlife from your little slice of Eden, around the yard. Guess you will have to take responsibility for that, and maybe even if that bear wanders into your garage or mauls the neighbor kid. Or a velvet antlered buck works over the side of your house to get ride of that itchy skin, or some testosterone loaded buck/bull elk gores the neighbor’s black lab, or just churns up the garden and munches over rose bushes a bit.

    Of course, if you live in rattlesnake country, keep lots of those nice little wood piles around, with tall grass for the mice to hide in. Don’t be surprised to find on stretched out on your porch step.

    1. JB Avatar


      How dare you suggest that not everyone should love raccoons, deer and rattlesnakes! Of course the (only possible) answer is that if they can’t live with the wildlife their neighbors have attracted then they should burn in hell and/or move far, far away (hell is far away, right?).

      Sorry, couldn’t resist a bit of sarcasm this eve. 😉

      1. Ida Lupines Avatar
        Ida Lupines

        they should burn in hell and/or move far, far away.

        Or at least the city. 😛

  5. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    So, what happens when the deer show up and hang around?

    Not really attract them, just try to keep some habitat around for them that doesn’t get more and more developed and fragmented by humans. I don’t always see them, so it’s not like I’m trying to attract them. Just protect some (very small) space for them to continue to live. One year I had twin fawns, another I turned my head for a second, and a beautiful antlered buck was there, only to disappear again. Only in a bad winter will I deliberately put food out. My neighborhood has gotten more and more developed since I bought my home 30 years ago. And the noise is ungodly, traffic and motorcycles, lawn mowers and leaf blowers, planes overhead. I don’t want to see living trees tagged with graffiti.

    Neighbors ought to be watching out for their own children, and educating them about wildlife and safety. Pets ought not to be allowed to roam, for example the mistaken and pervasive idea that cats are ‘wild’ and need to be outside. We take too much for granted nowadays. I’m not sanitizing my yard simply because people want to live in an artificial environment.

    I used to see hunters during deer season toting rifles down the street, which was kinda awe-inspiring for someone who was somewhat more of an urban person.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      The deer do eat my plants sometimes, but what you don’t hear about is when they eat the plants that you want controlled anyway. I have an overgrowth of ground cover that they eat which they are welcome to, they eat the apple-like fruit of my dogwoods which was amazing to see, and they stomp their feet at threats. 🙂

      Never fear about mice and the like, I’ve got red-tails, Cooper’s, sharpies, falcons, owls, kestrels, merlins, turkey vultures. Near the lakes there are bald eagles and osprey. Foxes and coyotes. I always see them when I am not expecting them. There’s no need to attract them, they live here already! A black bear has been seen.

    2. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      I was just thinking how long a 30-exemption from the Endangered Species Act would be – I bought my house nearly 30 years ago (27 or 28 years ago) and that’s a loooooonnnnng time to be without protections.

      Wildlife isn’t being ‘food conditioned and habituated’. Just the share that they are entitled to is being set aside. What we are doing is evicting them. How much is ever enough for us? Now I’ve got countless school buses stinkin’ up the air too. I don’t feel I owe the neighbors’ kids much more than the taxes I pay, and I don’t think it takes a village but their own parents to raise them.

      I live in a town where there is a lot of land set aside for conservation (which includes hunting) by our town, Audubon, and others. We’ve been somewhat smart about keeping controls on development, but still, suburbia is creeping. Large lakes that are water supplies for several towns keep us protected too. People who don’t want wildlife, weeds, etc. except maybe a cutesy little bird feeder fence their property in.

  6. Garry Rogers Avatar

    I certified our home grounds and my business site. Certifying a whole neighborhood is an inspired idea. This year, deer were driven into town by the drought. Complaints followed, but nothing too strident. Perhaps the neighborhood idea would work. Thank you.

  7. topher Avatar

    I leave a tangled mess of Choke Cherry, Current, Ivy, and Virgins Bower between the house and the hillside. The birds love it and serves as a helpful deterrent (along with the dog) to keep the deer on the hill and out of the garden. When you live on a very small lot in a very small house there’s not a lot you can do but every bit helps.

    1. Larry Avatar

      Fortunately Topher, size doesn’t matter. Small footprint? Just think vertical. The birds will love it and they will find you.

  8. rork Avatar

    The crabby people paragraph is cryptic, so maybe I don’t get it. Sounds like people who grow vegetables or garden generally, are least benefiting wildlife. I hypothesize the opposite correlation. In my neighborhood it’s the folks with least skill or inclination to garden who have 1) the most mowed (fertilized and watered) turf, 2) the most invasives (they can’t tell), 3) the least real forest.

  9. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    Here’s something very apropos:

    As important as wilderness was to Thoreau, he also understood the need for nature closer to home. His cabin at Walden Pond was not far from Concord and his daily walks took him through the nearby forests and fields. Along with the Wilderness Act, President Johnson also signed the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, which has provided funding to protect and enhance everything from remote rivers to neighborhood parks.

    We need to protect and save Big Wilderness of course, but areas close to home are important too.

    From Walden Pond to Wilderness: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act

    1. Larry Avatar

      Yes Ida:
      “Leave it alone habitat”, around and through our towns are very important. I have encouraged council people of the local town to consider parks and even wilderness parks on treed land within the city. Their response is always, “Parks don’t bring in revenue.” Or the price is too high to consider spending just to increase quality of life. It has to lead to asphalt, traffic and retail to be considered. That’s why local elections are so very important. Find out who’s running for council and if they ever go play in the woods.

    2. rork Avatar

      Thoreau’s little “wild fruits” book is worth reading for the part near the end where he pleads for public ownership of parks that will be the jewels of the residents, particularly that corridors of land along rivers should be public. Near me we have the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, where visionary people tried to do just that around 1940, and were remarkably successful.

  10. WM Avatar

    Look who’s in the garden at the bird feeder…in the fruit trees….on the deck….and maybe in the house, if you leave the door open? Redmond and Gig Harbor homeowners love their wildlife sanctuaries. 😉

    1. WM Avatar

      Sorry, Poulsbo for this article (not Gig Harbor – but, well they like theirs too).

    2. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      Ha! 🙂

      Out my way, it’s Shark Week. The local news is reporting on Great White sightings ad nauseam. Happens every year.

      The other day, two women were out in a kayak observing seals. A Great White supposedly had been seen taking a seal. Don’t know if it was before or after these ladies decided to take their kayak out. And what do you know, a 14-foot Great White supposedly popped up and took a bite out of their kayak. They were unharmed.

      Why do people do these things?

      I saw a cute one the other day (a grey seal, not a Great White!). 🙂

  11. Larry Avatar

    If we expand the theme here of neighborhood open spaces in towns to large expanse of wilderness designations we will find a sharp drop-off in people support. I would expect, given the political makeup of the area, that the people in Nibley, UT., that support the movement to NWF certify their town would far less support new wilderness in the mountains to the east of town. Why is that? Lots of reasons but one is selfishness. We like the quality of life, greenness, birds and small wildlife bring to our daily environment but are apt to buy in to the notion that it isn’t good for $$$. Wilderness “locks up” land. Our insides like pristine environment but something also inside us seems to trump the expansion of that to far away lands. Study the SUV advertisements on TV, they show Jeeps, etc., in superb wilderness or wild settings but fail to show the ruts they made getting there. We then go out to buy Jeeps but fail to have the personal commitment to refrain from using them adversely. And that brings us to grouse about USFS road closures to stop erosion or benefit wildlife. In short, we want what we want when we want it and we are not willing to restrict our wants to benefit something that is not part of our “curtilage”.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan