NORTH FULTON, Ga. – Roswell has become the third community in Georgia and the 66th nationally to be certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
Other cities in Georgia with the certification are Chamblee and Johns Creek. Johns Creek gained their certification last year. Milton was attempting to beat Roswell for third and is the only other Georgia city attempting the certification.
To get the certification, Roswell needed plenty of community support, said Vicki Culbreth, Roswell’s environmental education coordinator. Two hundred private homes had to be certified, and at least five schools and six common areas – parks or city facilities – had to be certified as well.
“When we first brought this up, we were scared people would react with [against it],” Culbreth said.
A fear of attracting coyotes or snakes could have derailed any attempts at encouraging other wildlife.
Thankfully, she said none of that happened.
“People were super excited,” she said.
Over the past two years, Culbreth and the city, with volunteers, worked toward certification. This included holding workshops on everything from what native plants to grow to using rain barrels to catch rainwater.
“Roswell was lucky,” Culbreth said. “We already had almost half of the homes certified. People had done it on their own over the years.”
The city’s extensive parks and land along the Chattahoochee River also helped.
Certification is gained by getting a percentage of homes and businesses in a community to enact specific guidelines, such as planting certain flora and installing certain features – such as fountains – that attract native species of animals and birds.
“This is something the city takes a lot of pride in,” Culbreth said. “We’re right on the river with all these parks. We try to keep it sustainable. I think that’s why people move to Roswell.”
For Milton, Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Cindy Eade said there is a new project leader spearheading the effort and that the city still has some way to go before it can reach certification.
“Our demonstration garden is coming along,” she said, and the city still needs 150 more points from homeowners and businesses becoming habitats. It already has had several community outreach programs, such as lectures and demonstrations, as well as partnering with other cities for environmental programs such as bulky trash day or Rivers Alive.
Milton began the process last year, after Johns Creek gained their status as the second in the state. It typically takes several years to reach the goal.
“We were hoping we would do it before Roswell,” Eade said, “but we are delighted that Roswell has got behind the movement and that there are so many people in North Fulton who know the benefits of having wildlife habitats in their yards.”
For more about how to make your home a certified wildlife habitat, visit www.nwf.org/Home/How-to-Help/Garden-for-Wildlife.aspx.
This article was published in the Revue & News April 11, 2013 edition