The National Wildlife Federation has recognized the property of Pettigrew Academy in Waxahachie as an official certified wildlife habitat site.

The property attracts a variety of birds, butterflies and other wildlife, while helping to protect the local environment. With the help of NWF, many habitat enthusiasts have turned their yards and other garden spaces into enticing wildlife refuges.

“I think it is great to be certified as a national wildlife habitat because the students see the handiwork that they done over the year has paid off and that there is a national recognition for that. Also it shows that there is a community of people that values wildlife and natural habitats,” owner Kim Bauman said.

“They also see that we’re not just out in the garden weeding and planting seeds for no reason – they can see the fruits of their labor,” she said. “Children love to be in nature and it helps them so much academically because once they go out into nature there is a calming presence about that. Then they are able to come back inside and focus of the academics a little bit better.”

NWF began its wildlife habitat certification program in 1973 and has since certified more than 113,000 habitats nationwide, including a special 100,000th certification of the U.S. Botanic Garden’s National Garden, located at the base of the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C.

The average habitat is between a third- and half-acre, but certified sites can vary from urban balconies to 1,000-acre areas.

“It is just a process through sustainable gardening practices that anyone can do on a quarter-acre lot and not a 100-acre property. To have a certified wildlife habitat site, things that have to be included on it are food sources, water sources such as bird baths and cover so that animals feel safe and secure raising their young,” Ellis County Master Gardner Walt Friis said. 

“We have been working with Pettigrew Academy for the past four years and the area was just an ordinary back yard before anything was done to it,” he said. “The one thing we encourage is the use of native plants and we also implemented a rainwater harvesting system at the school.”

Any habitat enthusiast can create a certified habitat and learn the rewards of gardening for wildlife. To become certified, a property must provide the four basic elements that all wildlife needs: food, water, cover and places to raise young. The property also must utilize sustainable gardening practices.

Habitat restoration is critical in urban and suburban settings where commercial and residential development encroaches on natural wildlife areas, limiting the availability of resources wildlife need to survive and thrive. In addition to providing for wildlife, certified habitats conserve natural resources by reducing or eliminating the need for fertilizers, pesticides and or irrigation water, which protects the air, soil and water through communities.

More information about gardening for wildlife is available at www.nwf.org or by calling 1-800-822-9919.