Cities, townships, and boroughs throughout Pennsylvania are in the ideal position to demonstrate sustainable and habitat landscaping practices while leading the way for municipalities around the country. By utilizing open and other public space, new construction, and ecologically-friendly ordinances, entire towns can provide for birds and other wildlife and also save substantial amounts of maintenance costs.
Here are some things to explore:
- Evaluate public parks – If natural areas such as forests exist on public land, assess the health of the areas and improve the conditions with birds in mind. Dedicate underutilized portions of the park to new bird habitat with a native plant community. Creating demonstration gardens and incorporating interpretive signage will go a long way to educate residents about the value of birds, natural lands, and native plants. Lastly, register the park with the Bird Habitat Recognition Program.
- Native Plant Ordinances – several townships in Pennsylvania have already adopted native plant ordinances which amend provisional codes related to land development to provide for the use of native plants. Here is an example from Lower Makefield, Bucks County (pdf).
- Naturalizing Basins – thousands of acres of potential bird habitat are lost each year to the construction of detention and retention basins. Rather than valuable native plants (including trees and shrubs), basins are covered with turf grass that requires weekly maintenance, introduces chemicals into the watershed, and offers nothing to wildlife (unless you’re a Canada Goose). Through a special ordinance, municipalities can see to it that basins are constructed with ecological integrity while offering recreational opportunities (hiking, wildlife watching, etc.) to the township residents. Read more here. Read about a naturalized basin in Bucks County here (begins on page 37).
- Rain Gardens and other demonstration sites: Where rain accumulates on public spaces (around buildings, in parks, along curbs), consider constructing a rain garden to absorb the water and increase biodiversity. This is just one example of a demonstration garden that will help promote conservation and habitat gardening within the community. See how the City of Seattle tackled runoff that was polluting the Puget Sound.
- Publicize your town’s Bird Habitat project in your newsletter, on your website, and local media
- Provide Audubon At Home literature to libraries, nature centers, etc., and consider public programming (such as a speaker series about native gardening).
- BirdTown: As an extension of the Bird Habitat Recognition program, municipalities will be able to join the network of BirdTown sites. Certain criteria (e.g., percentage of open space dedicated to bird habitat, natural areas managed in a sustainable way, number of residents enrolled in Bird Habitat) will need to be met before the town is recognized as an official Bird Town. View the Bird Town Powerpoint presentation: (Best viewed in "Notes Page" layout)
- Form an Environmental Advisory Council (EAC): Or work with your existing EAC to help with any of the points above.
- For more information, go to http://pa.audubon.org/aah-birdtown.html