Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society Founded 1885
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How To - Backyard Habitat

The Falls Church City Healthy Habitat project will help Falls Church City conserve, protect and restore an ecologically balanced habitat for both humans and wildlife in our urban environment. It is a program that promotes practices that result in cleaner water and air for our city. The Falls Church Healthy Habitat project began in 2005 at the initiation of the City of Falls Church Environmental Services Council and concerned citizens so that the city could gain certification from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as an official Community Wildlife Habitat. The project received the support of the prior City Council in July of 2005.

Through this program, the City of Falls Church will become one of a select few communities in the United States providing healthy spaces to wildlife and humans and then managing an ongoing program to sustain and support those healthy spaces.  The nearby communities of Reston, Arlington County, Mason District (Fairfax County), Great Falls and South Riding are all either seeking certification through this program or have already attained certification. 

Our city has been featured in the March issue of Southern Living magazine in an article titled "Humanity for Habitats." The article describes the city as one of Virginia's greenest communities and outlines how the Healthy Habitat project is qualifying the city to become a Community Wildlife Habitat. It also features the Neighborhood Tree Program.

At the center of the Falls Church City Healthy Habitat Project is the certification of homes, parks, schools, churches, and other spaces as Backyard Wildlife Habitats through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). To qualify for certification, a property needs to provide the four basic elements that support beneficial local wildlife: food, water, cover, and places to raise young. Certification also encourages using sustainable gardening practices such as mulching, composting, or elimination of chemical yard products.  Even a patio or balcony on a condo or apartment can become a certifiable habitat.

The City has made some good progress. To date we have certified:

83 private homes
5 city parks (Berman, Crossman, Cherry Hill, West End, Cavalier Trail)
2 schools (Mt Daniel, TJ)

A team of involved citizens has also provided ongoing educational programs for the community at the Mary Riles Stiles Library, the Community Center and at the Fall and Memorial Day Festivals. 

The main goal now for the City to be fully certified is the addition of 50 more homes. We are close to reaching our goal to be certified by the end of 2009. You can be a part of what we still need to do by certifying your own backyard and encouraging your neighbors to do the same!

The process is simply filling out a self-certification profile of how a yard meets the four criteria and sending it to the National Wildlife Federation with a $15 application fee. The fee also includes a year subscription to the NWF magazine which provides good information on habitat building and maintenance.

This is an important project that balances the growth that our city is experiencing. It makes us a part of an important green corridor that is forming in this part of Virginia that can help sustain the flight patterns of migratory birds and butterflies. 

It is a solution for how to keep the City of Falls Church healthy, green, and full of the beneficial wildlife - the birds, butterflies, chipmunks, salamanders, toads - we all love to see in our city. And it makes the city a healthier place for our citizens to live.

Anyone seeking help in certifying their backyard or who has questions should contact Jill-Anne Spence or Jeremy Edwards in the City Arborist's office.

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Contact Information

Village Preservation and Improvement Society
P.O. Box 6824, Falls Church, Virginia 22040