Helping wildlife, one yard at a time

  • By Mike Benbow Special to The Herald
  • Friday, June 21, 2013 12:48pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

For more than a decade a group of Camano Island residents wanted to do more to encourage wildlife in their backyards and throughout their community.

The idea was to create a corridor for wildlife that would link parks with individual homes, helping to preserve the area’s native plants.

“We wanted to be an island in harmony with nature one home at a time,” said Val Schroeder of the Camano Wildlife Habitat Project.

In the past decade, the project has encouraged 803 island property owners to win certification from the National Wildlife Federation as a backyard habitat for wildlife. There are also has nine certified neighborhoods.

Certification is a simple process of providing three sources of food, water, and places where wildlife can find cover and raise their young.

Food can come from three different types of plants or maintained feeders, water sources can range from birdbaths to a creek; cover can be a rock pile or birdhouse; and places to raise babies can include dense vegetation or a nesting box.

It was a brochure on the backyard project that helped encourage Linda Webb to refill her 2.5 acres on Camano with mostly native vegetation. When Webb bought the property, she built a home and put in a couple acres of yard, keeping some of the large trees and brush.

“My sister visited the place and she said, ‘There’s no life here, Linda,’” Webb said.

That’s changed.

Today, the property is filled with birds, along with a few butterflies and bees.

A lawn that used to take four-and-a-half hours to mow is down to about 30 minutes.

Webb has replaced lawn with a variety of trees; elderberry and salmon berry bushes have come back; and regular visits to Snohomish County Conservation District plant sales have provided an array of what she calls “wildlife assisting” habitat.

She’s also added things like brush piles and logs to improve habitat. “When a tree falls, we don’t just chop it up and get rid of it,” she said.

She’s added a variety of feeders for birds, some birdbaths and a bubbler fountain.

“It’s a work in progress,” Webb said.

Backyard habitat tour

Camano Island will hold its sixth annual habitat garden tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

You can pick up a map to the backyard gardens participating in the free tour at the Camano Multipurpose Center (the blue building), 141 E. Camano Drive, on the day of the event.

There are small to large gardens on the tour, and both forested and waterfront places. Information will be available on native plants, wildlife and composting, as well as challenges faced on particular properties.

Learn more

For more information on the National Wildlife Federation’s backyard wildlife program, visit

Visit for more about Camano’s backyard project.

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