Environmental group asks residents’ help to gain national certification

Board wants Cherry Hill backyards to be wildlife friendly.

With the usual sources of distraction and entertainment largely shut down,  residents now more than ever are turning to nature to fill the void.

Whether it’s a hike down a local trail or a picnic at a favorite park, the great outdoors has served as a welcome respite from the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cherry Hill Environmental Board is tapping into residents’ passion for connecting with nature by asking them to get involved in making their own backyards a greener place. The board has launched an initiative to have Cherry Hill become a National Wildlife Foundation Certified Wildlife Habitat Community. 

“While you’re at home, in your yard, it’s a perfect time to think about creating a wildlife-friendly habitat and helping the community become a more green, sustainable, life-supporting community,” said Barbara Patrizzi,  volunteer coordinator for the Cherry Hill Environmental Board. 

As a certified Wildlife Habitat Community, Cherry Hill will gain national recognition as wildlife friendly, according to Patrizzi.

The initiative first got on the environmental board’s radar when Lisa Herman, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Cherry Hill, brought the idea to board members in February. Herman covered the $99 sponsorship fee and told the board if residents need help getting started, she can steer them toward bird feeders and other items at her store to get started. 

To date, more than 60 residents have certified their yard or balcony as a wildlife habitat, and the board hopes others follow suit. The board needs 300 residents to certify their homes in order to achieve a community-wide certification. 

Getting involved is simple and requires minimal commitment, according to Patrizzi.

“Really everyone —  from a farm to a balcony to a front step — can turn that space into a wildlife friendly space,” she said. 

The board is asking residents to provide wildlife with either a source of food, water, cover or a place to raise young. That could mean planting shrubs, putting out bird seed or planting native plants for pollinators. 

Patrizzi said providing those accommodations on a property helps wildlife replace valuable habitat that has been lost to development. A few small plants could provide food for valuable pollinators like birds and bees that pollinate flowering plants and food crops, or could attract birds and toads that in turn eat insect pests like grubs and mosquitoes. 

Patrizzi said the township is already a leader in sustainable practices and green-space initiatives. The board holds monthly trail cleanups and maintains pollinator gardens throughout Cherry Hill. That work will also help the township gain points for certification.

The National Wildlife Foundation provides a checklist on its website as well educational resources on how to achieve the certification requirements. Patrizzi said the board encourages residents to check out NWF.org/certify to learn more about how to get involved.