The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary program celebrated its 25th anniversary year by more than making a "10,000 by 2010" campaign goal. By the end of 2010, an official total of 11,454 properties across the state were enrolled as Backyard Wildlife Sanctuaries. With the program's emphasis on urban and suburban properties where habitat development and restoration is most needed, 89 percent of those properties (10,238) are in western Washington, where more of the state's cities and towns lie in the Puget Sound area from Bellingham to Vancouver. The other 11 percent (1,216) are in eastern Washington, mostly in the state's second largest metropolitan area -- Spokane - with some in the Tri-Cities, Yakima and Wenatchee areas.
The "10,000 by 2010" campaign began in the summer of 2009, when the statewide total of properties enrolled was 8,507. The 10,000 mark was reached in April 2010 with enrollment of a property in Olympia. The Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary program began in 1985 in WDFW's North Puget Sound Region, based in Mill Creek, north of Seattle. It quickly expanded to the Spokane-based Eastern Region for statewide promotion of the program's basic idea - wildlife stewardship begins at home, even and especially in urban settings. With over 35,000 acres of wildlife habitat converted to housing and other development each year in Washington, the program is designed to help offset that loss by encouraging backyard landscaping to provide food and cover for wildlife.
Over the years the program has increased emphasis on development and maintenance of year-round habitat, preferably using low-maintenance, low-water-use native plants. Information on supplemental feeding of birds has increasingly focused on keeping feeders clean to avoid spreading disease among birds and locating feeders to minimize problems with predation by domestic cats and wild predators and birds flying into nearby windows. The program not only enhances the urban environment for the benefit of wildlife, but it also helps increase opportunities for people to enjoy and learn about wildlife by providing information about best practices for attracting watchable wildlife to your home. The latest (2006) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey of wildlife associated recreation showed that 2.3 million Washington residents, or about 40 percent of the state's population, actively watch wildlife. Most of those - 1.9 million or 83 percent - watch wildlife "around home" (defined as within a mile of home.) About 1.5 million feed wildlife and about 360,000 maintain natural areas or plantings for wildlife.
If you're currently one of the many thousands of Washington Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary managers, thank you for all you do to help wildlife on your property. We encourage you to talk to your neighbors about similarly helping wildlife on their property because the bigger the contiguous blocks of habitat, the better for wildlife and wildlife watching. If you're not in the Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary program, you can certify your yard with Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation and Northwest Zoo & Aquarium Alliance by downloading the
Habitat Certification Application