The National Wildlife Federation

Community Wildlife Habitats


For more than 40 years, the National Wildlife Federation, through its Garden for Wildlife™ program, has engaged homeowners, businesses, schools, universities, places of worship, parks, community-based organizations, and others in creating and certifying wildlife-friendly landscapes on their properties.

The National Wildlife Federation's Community Wildlife Habitat program, started in 1997, empowers communities to take action for wildlife in their own communities. The program provides community leaders with a program framework to restore wildlife habitat and educate and engage community members while working to attain the National Wildlife Federation's esteemed certification as a wildlife-friendly community. Communities of all sizes are encouraged to apply. The National Wildlife Federation works with large cities and counties as well as small towns and neighborhoods. We are currently working with approximately 200 communities nationwide. For more information, download the National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat fact sheet.

Houston TX - Certification Event in City Council Chambers

Certification Requirements

To achieve certification through the National Wildlife Federation's Community Wildlife Habitat program, you must meet two sets of goals.

First, National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitats earn "Certification Points" by providing habitat for wildlife throughout the community—where people live, work, learn, play, and worship. Communities do this by certifying individual properties like backyards, school grounds, public parks, community gardens, places of worship, and businesses, as National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitats®. Each individual certified site within the community provides the four basic elements that all wildlife need — food, water, cover, and places to raise young—and integrates sustainable gardening practices such as using rain barrels, reducing water usage, removing invasive plants, using native plants, and eliminating pesticides. These habitats help to create urban oases for wildlife and new corridors of habitat that enable wildlife to thrive.

Second, National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitats earn "Education and Outreach" points through a flexible checklist of options that engage the community in the certification process. Communities educate residents about sustainable gardening practices, such as reducing or eliminating chemical fertilizers and pesticides, conserving water, planting native plants and trees, composting, and more. The community hosts workshops about gardening for wildlife and holds community events such as stream cleanups and invasive species removal to make the community healthier for people and wildlife alike. Local citizens become knowledgeable advocates for wildlife and sustainability.

Download the Community Wildlife Habitat program certification requirements.

The National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat program allows communities to customize or emphasize local priorities. Some communities focus on water conservation measures by installing rain gardens to prevent storm water runoff. Others focus on creating wildlife corridors by connecting parks and riparian areas to new Certified Wildlife Habitats in the same area. Still others use the program to engage citizens around the importance of using drought-resistant native plants or reducing the use of pesticides and chemicals. Successful community efforts engage many local partners in their work.

Agua Dulce AZ - Certified Community Sign

Support from the National Wildlife Federation and the Network

When you join the National Wildlife Federation's Community Wildlife Habitat program, you join a network of like-minded communities that are working to meet similar goals around sustainability, clean water, restoring and enhancing wildlife habitat (especially for birds and pollinators), and more. National Wildlife Federation staff support Community Wildlife Habitat teams to meet their goals in many ways, including:

  • Member-only access to a wide variety of best practices resources that include detailed case studies, template websites and brochures, a how-to guide for hosting a native plant garden tour, and much more.
  • Member-only networking opportunities with fellow Community Wildlife Habitats through regular conference calls, webinars, and our online message boards/forums.
  • The ability to create a customized home page for your community that will be included in our national map of wildlife-friendly communities.
  • An automated system for tracking your certification, education, and outreach points.
  • Free paper applications and paper tip sheets for distribution at educational events on key topics like pollinators, neighbor-friendly wildlife gardening, nesting boxes, bird feeders, lawn reduction, and more.
  • Consultations with National Wildlife Federation staff by email and phone and a visit from a National Wildlife Federation official upon the certification of your community.
  • A 30 percent discount on merchandise from the National Wildlife Federation catalog for all participating volunteers.

Annual Re-Certification

Every year certified National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat teams continue to educate and engage their community and certify habitats by meeting modest annual re-certification goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you still have more questions, please read our frequently asked questions document.