Homegrown National Parks: How you can save the world in your yard

Thinking about all the world’s natural problems can be overwhelming. In a world of eight billion people and a whole bunch of environmental issues such as dwindling wild spaces and biodiversity, what can one person really do? You can transform your yard into quality habitat to support local wildlife.

Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth including plants, wildlife and microbes. Supporting biodiversity in backyards creates more spaces for wildlife and creates healthy ecosystems for the species that depend on them. Douglas Tallamy’s book, Nature’s Best Hope, is a practical resource for homeowners looking to make a difference by preserving biodiversity starting in their own backyard. This particular edition is written to share with young readers, providing an excellent summer read and activity.

In Nature’s Best Hope, Tallamy explains that 78% of the land in the United States is privately owned, which means there are not enough preserved lands (for example, national parks) to support our current levels of biodiversity going into the future. Tallamy walks the readers through what our lawns typically look like and how they lack biodiversity, stating “A lawn that is now planted with grass was probably once a forest, a meadow, or a swamp. These wild places were originally home to many different kinds of plants, providing food and shelter for many different kinds of animals.”

Tallamy explains that the loss of plants is bad for the wildlife that depend on them to survive. He gives the example that in order for a monarch butterfly to successfully complete its life cycle, its larvae require milkweed to eat in the spring, and the butterflies require the nectar of asters and goldenrods in the fall. The populations of milkweeds, asters, and goldenrods have decreased in recent decades, causing a decrease in the population of monarch butterflies. This is only one example; this same type of situation has been happening to many species in our own backyards and across the world.

Tallamy gives some concrete examples of how homeowners can prevent the loss of biodiversity through a mindset that brings us closer to nature: “If we start thinking about choosing plants that can carry the most living things, we’ll choose differently. And our first step is to choose plants that are from close to home.”

How can a homeowner put this into practice? Tallamy gives the following steps (see infographic):

For more detailed information on the steps listed above and how to participate, visit https://homegrownnationalpark.org/. And click on “Tallamys Hub” to read about his tips and tricks for growing a Homegrown National Park or pick up Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard (Timber Press, 2023). [Are you excited to do this as a family activity? You’re in luck. There’s a version for young readers, too!]

KISMA is a brand new Go Beyond Beauty hub! Go Beyond Beauty is a program started by the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network that aims to celebrate garden professionals, nurseries, and community members who sell and landscape with native plants rather than invasive ornamental species. Find out more information at https://www.gobeyondbeauty.org/ on how you can become a participant!


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