Bringing nature into your own yard

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By Special to the Monitor

Saturday, the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) is sponsoring a Wildlife Habitat Yard Tour from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. so visitors can enjoy the many ways Los Alamos and White Rock home-owners have learned to live with nature.

As human development pushes cities, towns, and suburbs farther and farther into areas that were once open space, wildlife has less space to call home. In an effort to reduce the impact of human development, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has established a Backyard Wildlife Habitat Certification Program. The program encourages homeowners to transform yards into wildlife-friendly gardens.

More than 100,000 wildlife enthusiasts nationwide have been recognized for creating wildlife-friendly havens right in their own backyard. The NWF goal for 2008 is 150,000 certified habitats. Here in Los Alamo, there are 40 certified yards. PEEC has a goal to increase that number to 100. It is easy and fun to do. When a homeowners are certified with the NWF, they'll receive a certificate and a free one-year subscription to the beautiful National Wildlife magazine.

Interested in learning more? On the tour, participants will have a chance to get tips from six Los Alamos and White Rock gardeners who have used landscaping to attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife to their yards.

They’ll discover some simple techniques to provide the five essential elements: food, water, cover, places to raise young, and sustainable gardening practices. Additionally, people will pick up ideas for wildlife watching, planting, composting, conserving water and reducing chemical use.

The National Wildlife Federation has certified each of the six gardens as a “Backyard Wildlife Habitat.” By certifying their yards, these gardeners have joined a network of wildlife enthusiasts dedicated to turning their yards into havens of life. Planting a wildlife-friendly garden is a fun, relaxing, and rewarding activity. Participants are sure to come away from the tour inspired.

A free self-directed activity, "I Spy with My Eye a Wildlife Habitat," will be available for children at the tour. Kids will collect a unique sticker for each location that they complete the activity. Watt Swap, the light-bulb exchange program of the Department of Public Utilities, will also be featured on the day of the tour.

Visitors to the PEEC nature center and gardens at 3540 Orange St. will be able to exchange up to six incandescent bulbs (three 100-watt bulbs, two 75-watt bulbs, and one 60-watt bulb) for energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, free of charge. See the PEEC web site for details. Additionally, sign up for LA Green, the simple way to contribute to the purchase of green power for the County.

Also, nature guides, Earth Day T-shirts and a DVD featuring the first certified wildlife habitat yard in Los Alamos will be for sale.

PEEC volunteers will be available to demonstrate how to register a yard on-line.

Tickets are $10 per person or $15 per couple/family. Stop by the PEEC Nature Center, or purchase on line on the web site (www.PajaritoEEC.org) by clicking on the calendar link. Tickets are also on sale at C. B. Fox.

Ticket-buyers will be given Wildlife Habitat Yard Tour buttons. For questions, call 662-0460.