You can attain a certified wildlife garden habitat

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The National Wildlife Federation offers a “Garden for Wildlife” program. If the criteria exist in your backyard or farm, you can get your yard certified through a simple application process and it can become an educational tool. A plaque placed in a prominent position can engender questions and interest. You will be doing your part for our fluffy, feathered and even fur-bearing friends.

The criteria are food, water, defensive cover, places to raise young and sustainable practices.

The first two criteria are, of course, obvious. In the heart of winter, with snow and cold and what seems to be few plants, you can still do much. It is not too late to create habitat and provide for our wildlife. Bird feeders and pine cones stuffed with suet, fruits and nuts (contact us if you’d like a recipe) can take the place of natural plants, while birdbaths or containers of water filled daily with fresh water are two ways of getting started. If your nearby bushes and trees have nuts or berries, so much the better.

This spring, installing a water feature means daily water changes are eliminated. A heater in a small pond works great during the winter. A water feature provides water for scaled quail, magpies, pigeons, flickers, roadrunners, towhee, flycatchers and scores of little brown jobs.

Providing cover is probably one of the easier things to do. Native vegetation (left unpruned until spring) and woody debris lying about give those creatures who come to enjoy your food and water places to hide from predators. If you don’t have any loose debris or undercover shrubs, consider creating some. Even a firewood stack or a pile of rocks would help.

Installing nesting boxes, allowing dead snags to stand and providing host plants for caterpillars are some forms of creating places to raise young — while sustainable practices means controlling invasive and exotic species and eliminating chemical fertilizers or pesticides. These are all good things to do for both your viewing pleasure and the protection and encouragement of our wildlife species.

Even if you live in an urban area or in an apartment, you can help. Container plants, water dishes and shelter can be set out on patios and balconies. Add a basket of pine cones with the seeds still in them or dried plant material, which could be used for nesting or lining dens. If you plant it, they will come!

Certified schoolyards and even whole communities are also being encouraged to implement these methods. Loss of habitat is the most common reason for the decline of our birds and wildlife. Aldea, a neighborhood in northwest Santa Fe, recently became a certified community. There are 1,485 certified wildlife habitats in New Mexico. You could be next!

The nonprofit Xeric Garden Club of Albuquerque is a great example of a certified wildlife habitat garden. Here are some links for more information:

• National Wildlife Federation: nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat

• New Mexico Wildlife Federation: nmwildlife.org

• Xeric Garden Club of Albuquerque: xericgardenclub.org

• Aldea Community Wildlife Habitat: nmwildlife.org/news/takes-village-juniper-titmouse-nest-box-project

State forestry announces spring sale

Orders for the spring “Conservation Seedling Sale” are being taken now through April 14. Distribution will begin March 7 and continue through April 21. Since 1960, more than 4 million trees purchased through this program have been planted throughout New Mexico. The forestry division offers more than 60 different species for sale. These seedlings are sold in small containers, large containers and bare root.

Seedlings are available to landowners who own at least 1 acre of land in New Mexico and who agree to use the trees for conservation purposes. These criteria may include erosion control, wildlife habitat, reforestation, riparian restoration, windbreak establishment, Christmas tree plantations or other conservation needs. For more details, visit nmforestry.com. All proceeds are reinvested into the program.

Barberries

We are delighted when readers respond to our articles! A question arose from last month’s “color” article regarding barberries and we wish to clarify lest anyone is considering planting a barberry.

Many different barberry species exist, including one aptly called Berberis vulgaris, which was introduced from Europe in the early 1600s and has been listed in several New England states as a noxious weed. Unfortunately, sightings of it have been reported in Northern New Mexico. This is not a barberry you want to plant in your backyard. The species cited last month, Berberis fendleri, Berberis fremonti and Mahonia repens are all native to New Mexico and are not considered exotic or noxious.

We are always interested in learning more about the plants in our area. If you think you know of a plant that you can’t identify or fear may be an exotic, please do not hesitate to contact us and we’ll plan a field trip to confirm identification.

Native Plant Society – Taos chapter, upcoming events

Watch for updates regarding meetings and field trips. Monthly meetings begin in March and are on the third Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Kit Carson boardroom, located at 118 Cruz Alta Road.

• March 15: “Hummingbirds of North-Central New Mexico and their Favorite Native Plants” by John Ubelaker, professor at SMU-in-Taos/ Fort Burgwin.

• Sept. 14-17: The Taos chapter is the proud host for the 2017 annual statewide conference. The theme is “The Seed: Past, Present and Future.” More to come.

Contact us

This column is printed the second Thursday of each month. We are planning programs for 2017 and welcome suggestions for topics, speakers, special events, field trips, community outreach activities or any other learning opportunity.

Contact us at taosnps@gmail.com, through the chapter web page at npsnm.org/about/chapters/taos or search for “Native Plant Society New Mexico Taos chapter” on Facebook.

Johnson is a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers’ Association and the national Outdoor Writers’ Association.

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