Local resident makes a difference to protect wildlife

By Keith Ellis Virginia Cooperative Extension Southside Master Gardener Trainee The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), America’s largest wildlife conservation and education organization, recently announced that I, Keith Ellis of K&L Acres, LLC, in Mecklenburg County, has successfully created a Certified Wildlife Habitat® through its Garden for Wildlife™ program. NWF celebrates these efforts to create a garden that supports birds, butterflies, bees, frogs and other local wildlife. Every Certified Wildlife Habitat Garden provides natural sources of food, water, cover and places to raise young and is maintained in a sustainable way that incorporates native plants, conserves water and doesn’t rely on pesticides.
Keith Ellis with his certification showing his Certified Wildlife Habitat® while standing in a field of wildflowers including butterfly weed that is the larval plant for the Monarch butterfly caterpillar. In existence for over 45 years, the Garden for Wildlife movement has recognized over 227,000 Certified Wildlife Habitat gardens across the United States to date, encompassing more than 2.5 million acres that support wildlife locally. Backyards, urban gardens, school grounds, businesses, places of worship, campuses, parks, farms, zoos and community landscapes can all be recognized as wildlife habitats through the program. “Anyone, anywhere can restore wildlife habitat right in their own yards and communities,” said NWF naturalist David Mizejewski. “Whether you garden in a suburban yard, an urban area or a rural plot of land, you can make a difference for local wildlife. Creating a Certified Wildlife Habitat Garden is fun, easy and makes a real difference for neighborhood wildlife. It’s the perfect grassroots way to think globally and act locally and help birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife,” he added. I wanted to be a good steward of the land and wildlife that God has entrusted me to take care of. I turned a sterile 75 acres into a productive wildlife habitat to be enjoyed by all who come to visit. K&L Acres. LLC, includes stands of loblolly pines, two streams lined with various hardwoods, a two-acre pond I constructed, five acres of wildlife food plots for quail, deer, birds and other animals. I have several blue bird houses and have constructed over a mile of walking paths and fire breaks. There are many acres of pollinator plants and blackberries for the bees and especially milkweed for the Monarch butterflies. The habitat also includes a one-acre orchard of apple, pear, peach and plum trees dedicated for the wildlife. Every Certified Wildlife Habitat Garden is now also part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort to create a million gardens that provide habitat for declining pollinator insects such butterflies and bees. Participants who have their wildlife habitat garden certified receive a personalized certificate with a unique habitat number, a one-year membership to NWF with a subscription to National Wildlife magazine, a subscription to the Garden for Wildlife e-newsletter, a 10 percent discount to National Wildlife catalog, and the exclusive right to post a Certified Wildlife Habitat yard sign. For more information on NWF’s Garden for Wildlife movement and how to qualify to have a garden space recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, visit https://www.nwf.org/garden or call 1-800-822-9919. The National Wildlife Federation is America's largest conservation organization, uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world. I encourage you to create a wildlife habitat. You’ll not only be proud of your achievement but will be able to spend time enjoying the wildlife utilizing your hard work.