By Tim Manns
There is never a lack of conservation issues crying out for response. They are often threats to areas we value and thought secure: the planned bike path through Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve, Growler flights over spotted owl habitat in Olympic National Park…, but here I’d like to mention a different role Audubon members can play in conservation. Maybe you’ve seen presentations by Dr. Douglas Tallamy, an entomologist and ecologist at the University of Delaware and inspiring and pragmatic advocate for gardening with native plants as not only good to do, but urgent. Tallamy points out that just 5% of the lower 48 states is in fairly pristine ecological shape while over 40 million acres are lawn, all but dead ecologically. The problem is, “We have destroyed natural habitat in so many places that local extinction is rampant and global extinction accelerating. This is a growing problem for humanity because it is the plants and animals around us that produce the life support we all depend on.” While we need not value nature only for how it supports us, Tallamy’s urgency might convince people for whom birds, plants, and all the natural world do exist for us alone.
Tallamy’s approach (see his new book Nature’s Best Hope) adds detail and pizazz to what we’ve been told for some time: it’s important to support birds and other wildlife in our yards by replacing lawn with native plants. Tallamy emphasizes choosing natives supporting the greatest number and variety of butterflies and moths. Why? Because their caterpillars are such important bird food. To have varied and numerous birds, we need plants that support what they eat. This National Wildlife Federation website, advised by Tallamy, suggests plant species: https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/About/Native-Plants. Planting native species is a National Audubon campaign too: https://www.audubon.org/native-plants. Another good source, Washington Native Plant Society: https://www.wnps.org/. And read John Marzluff’s Subirdia for his 10 principles to make your yard a place that supports birds and other wildlife. Protecting habitat in remote national parks and wilderness areas and much smaller local preserves is important but insufficient to sustain the biodiverse world we want and need. Our own yards must be part of the bigger conservation picture.
For a recent presentation by Dr. Tallamy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WY4aV5hqkxY&feature=youtu.be. To receive Conservation Notes on Skagit Audubon issues and occasional alerts, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.