Lancaster, PA – The Lancaster Conservancy (“the Conservancy”) is excited to announce that Lancaster County is now a certified National Wildlife Federation’s Community Wildlife Habitat™. This certification shows Lancaster’s commitment to be a healthier, greener, and more wildlife-friendly county by creating wildlife habitat throughout its communities while also educating and engaging residents.
“By joining the National Wildlife Federation’s Community Wildlife Habitat program, Lancaster County is sending a clear and powerful message to communities all over America that people working together can create healthy habitats and healthy communities, and make a difference in their own community and beyond,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, Senior Director of Community Wildlife at the National Wildlife Federation.
The Lancaster Conservancy’s Community Wildlife Habitat initiative is a volunteer led effort that works with local property owners and organizations to encourage planting native plants, trees, and gardens that reduce stormwater runoff while providing habitat and food for wildlife and pollinators. The National Wildlife Federation has certified more than 568 sites including yards, schools, businesses, community gardens, parks, and places of worship in Lancaster County. Each of these sites provides the four basic elements that all wildlife need to thrive: food, water, cover and places to raise young, while integrating sustainable gardening and landscaping practices.
Linda Ferich, who spearheaded this initiative for the last three years, was recently notified that Lancaster County now has enough certified sites for the county to qualify as the first in the state of Pennsylvania with this designation. “With a critical mass of certified gardens the goal is to create corridors for wildlife to thrive,” stated Ferich. “This is a wonderful designation, but our work is far from complete.”
Ferich personally visited and advised well over 300 property owners over the past three years. Ferich, Allison Zechman, and Margie Hall also led Habitat Steward trainings where 40 community volunteers were taught to identify non-native and invasive plants, analyze gardens and sites, and implement other sustainable landscaping practices. In recent years the group of volunteers also launched additional initiatives focused specifically on creating habitat for wildlife at schools and places of worship.
In 2017, Linda Gort and Lenny Walton removed invasive English Ivy from their front yard and replaced it with a rain garden and many sun loving native flowers that attract birds, bees, and butterflies throughout the season. “The more we learned the more concerned we grew. Our insect population, which supports our entire food web, is collapsing. We wanted to do our small part and encourage many others to do the same,” said Gort. “Our front yard now has layers of color and life all year long.”
Encouraging community members to create native habitat is also one of the primary goals of the Conservancy’s annual Lancaster Water Week slated to take place for its fourth year in 2021 from June 4 – 12. “We are so inspired by the many people in our community who are transforming their properties. It is the number one action step all homeowners can take to ensure we have strong local ecosystems and clean streams,” said Fritz Schroeder, Senior Vice President of Community Impact at the Conservancy. “The Conservancy protects large tracts of lands and forests which are critically important. However, to address the staggering collapse of our natural ecosystems, we need everyone to do their part. Removing invasives, planting natives, and reimagining lawns are critical steps toward saving our pollinators, cleaning our water, and enhancing livability in our communities long term.”
“This certification is just the beginning,” reflected Phil Wenger, Conservancy President. “Our hope is this designation as a Community Wildlife Habitat only inspires more members of our community to take action, whether their site is a massive yard or a small container garden on a patio. The headlines are filled with terrifying news about plummeting insect and bird populations, the loss of habitat, and the impact of climate change on our forests and wildlife. It’s easy to feel hopeless, but we can make a difference when we take action on a local level. From our members and volunteers who support the Conservancy’s efforts to protect and restore habitat on a large scale at our nature preserves to each of the residents, organizations, and schools that improved their sites for wildlife through this initiative – thank you.”
If you would like to have a Community Wildlife Habitat Steward schedule a visit to assess your site, please reach out to Linda Ferich at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also learn more and get started gardening for wildlife at www.lancasterconservancy.org/habitat/.