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Conservation Work Has a Place in Your Backyard

This backyard pond in Palm Beach, Fla. features a variety of wetland plants.

This backyard pond in Palm Beach, Fla. features a variety of wetland plants.

Whether you live in the country, on an average-sized suburban yard, or on a tiny plot in the city you can help protect the environment and add beauty and interest to your surroundings with backyard conservation.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service works with farmers and ranchers to make conservation improvements to their land, resulting in cleaner water and air, healthier soil and better habitat for wildlife.

But conservation work is not just for farmers or ranchers. You can help protect natural resources, whether your place is measured in acres, feet or flower pots.

This month, NRCS and other USDA agencies are celebrating Conservation Month. As part of this week, we wanted to share a few tips for how you can be a conservationist in your own backyard. Here’s a few:

  • Plant trees: Trees in your backyard provide homes for wildlife, lower heating and cooling costs, clean air, add beauty and color, provide shelter from the wind and the sun and improve property values.
  • Provide food and shelter for wildlife: Welcome birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, bats and other wildlife to your yard by selecting the right plants. Certain trees, shrubs and flowers – especially those that are native – can give wildlife the perfect food and sanctuary.
  • Build a pond: Another good way to invite wildlife to your yard is by building a pond. Water provides habitat for birds, butterflies, frogs and fish. Plus, ponds are a  scenic addition to the yard.
  • Create a wetland: Many yards can support a backyard wetland that benefits you and your community. Letting runoff from your roof, parking area and yard slowly filter through a mini-wetland helps prevent pollution of neighboring creeks and may help prevent flooding. Wetlands also encourage the recharging of underground aquifers and, like the right plants or a pond, provide good homes for wildlife.
  • Compost scraps from kitchen and yard: All organic matter eventually decomposes. So, why not spare your trash bags and town’s landfill by composting yard and food scraps. Composting, even with a simple compost pile, speeds the process by providing an ideal environment for bacteria and other decomposing micro-organisms. The final product, humus or compost, looks and feels like fertile garden soil. It’s perfect for your garden.

More tips like these are available in our Backyard Conservation publication, which is available online. Free paper copies can be ordered from the NRCS Distribution Center.

Follow NRCS on Twitter.

Check out other conservation-related stories on the USDA Blog.

An Iowa resident composts scraps from his kitchen.

An Iowa resident composts scraps from his kitchen.

One Response to “Conservation Work Has a Place in Your Backyard”

  1. Kip Kolesinskas says:

    Great ideas with some modifications and suggestions.You might want to consider changing the “create a wetland” to “create a rain garden”. This is really a more feasible and appropriate suggestion. Most yards may not have appropriate soils or hydrology to create a wetland and though could support a rain garden. Others you may wish to promote:
    -reduce managed lawn area (less watering, compactions, more biodivesity, etc)
    -plant native and or noninvasive plants
    -bring these ideas to your local schools, churches, and other public spaces.

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