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Community Wildlife Habitat

The City of Los Angeles is partnering with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to become the nation’s largest certified Community Wildlife Habitat!
The City encourages residents to garden with wildlife in mind, use native plants, plant plenty of trees, use sustainable practices, and reduce, or even eliminate, the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. By designing gardens and green spaces with these principles in mind, the City can support wildlife, restore connectivity, and enhance climate resilience.

Individual residents, businesses, and schools can easily certify their properties with the NWF. In order to become certified, green spaces need to provide four basic elements that all wildlife need: food, water, cover, and a place to raise young. In addition, gardens must also use sustainable practices, like conserving water and removing invasive plants.

Each certified property earns points for the City of Los Angeles in the Community Wildlife Habitat Program. In addition, NWF habitat certifications across the City are regularly quantified by a metric in the brand-new LA City Biodiversity Index.

Certify your home, workplace, school, community garden, or other public space today!

habitat biodiversity 400pxTypes of Certifications
Home/Apartment Certification
  • Beautify your yard with native flowers, shrubs, and trees that provide habitat for native wildlife.
Schools (NWF Schoolyard Habitat) Common Areas
  • Other spaces, including businesses, community gardens, colleges/universities, libraries, roadsides, and places of worship, can also be certified.


Creating a Wildlife Garden


owls biodiversity 400pxAll wildlife need four things to survive: food, water, shelter, and a place to raise young.

  1. FOOD: In nature, plants provide important food sources, including berries, nectar, pollen, leaves, roots, seeds, nuts, acorns, and pinecones. Native plants also create an environment/provide sustenance for insects, invertebrates, and fungi. Certified habitats must include food sources for wildlife.
  2. WATER: Your habitat also needs to include fresh water for wildlife to drink and bathe. This can be as simple as a shallow dish or bird bath, with a few rocks in it to prevent insects from drowning. Or you can create a pond with native aquatic vegetation for a larger project. If you are concerned about mosquitoes, simply change the water every 5-7 days or install a drip or a filter that agitates the water, which prevents mosquitoes from laying eggs. Moving water is also more attractive to birds.
  3. SHELTER: Wildlife need a place to hide from predators, or if they are predators, a place to find prey. Plants provide this kind of cover, and they also offer protection against the elements, during times of extreme heat or rain. Be sure to plant densely, to establish good cover. Brush piles, dead logs, and leaf litter provide excellent cover as well.
  4. PLACES TO RAISE YOUNG: Many organisms rely on specific native plants to raise their young. For example, monarch butterflies can only eat milkweed as caterpillars, while the endemic El Segundo blue butterfly relies on coast buckwheat pollen. Many birds also show a preference when nesting, some like to lay their eggs in the tall branches of sycamore trees, while other species nest in thick shrubs like manzanita.

Sustainable Practices


butterfly and poppy biodiversity 400pxOnce you’ve established your wildlife garden, follow sustainable practices like eliminating the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers and removing invasive plants.

  • Native Plants
    • California has an array of native plant species like elderberry, manzanitas, oaks, sages, currants, fuschia, aster, grasses, succulents, cacti, and many more! Many tools/resources are available to help you select native plants that are appropriate for your local environment:
  • Native Animals
    • What kind of wildlife will you see? Click here for Audubon’s list of bird species native to Los Angeles. Be sure to log your observations at iNaturalist.org!
  • Connectivity
    • Many wildlife need to travel to find food, shelter, and mates. Pockets of habitat and green space in urban areas can serve as corridors or stepping stones that help connect larger, natural areas. Click here to learn more about connectivity and LA’s wildlife corridors on this flyer.

Please visit our Biodiversity page for more information!
Downloads

FAQs

Q: Does it cost money to become certified wildlife habitat?
A:

Yes, the registration fee with NWF is $20. Use this link to start the certification process.

Q: I’m concerned about spiders/worms/lizards. What should I do?
A:

All native organisms play an important role in the ecosystem. Worms digest dead leaves to create rich soil for plants to grow healthy. Bees and wasps pollinate plants, while spiders control other insect populations. Predators, insects, and reptiles are natural, normal, and essential to the ecosystem.

Q: How can the City help me start my garden?
A:

LA Sanitation & Environment offers free street trees to be planted in the parkway. Our partner, City Plants, has a free Yard Tree Delivery Program, where residents can request up to seven shade trees per address. Trees provide cover, habitat, and food sources for all kinds of wildlife.

Q: I don’t want my water bill to go up because of this. How do I make a water-wise garden?
A:

Native plants have evolved to thrive in California’s Mediterranean climate of rainy winters, dry hot summers, and even wildfires. They are adapted to need very little watering even through the summer months. After a few seasons, larger perennial plants won’t even need to be watered.  For additional information on capturing rainwater and improving onsite water infiltration, see our Residential Solutions page.

Q: When should I start my garden?
A:

Southern California is lucky to have a year-round growing season. Native plants can be planted at any time of the year, but for best results, plant seedlings at the end of the wet season (February - early March). Vegetable gardens can be grown at any time of the year.

Q: I have a small space for gardening. Can I still participate?
A:

Yes! Most native species can be grown in containers and pots. Select species that will fit the space you have. Balcony gardens are a great opportunity to attract birds and other flying organisms.