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Nature and Environment

News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.

Planning Yard Projects for Next Year? Begin With a YardMap

For passionate gardeners and farmers, there’s an immense joy that comes from browsing through garden catalogues on the dark, cold days of winter. Cuddled up with your favorite steaming, delicious beverage, hours can pass as you peruse and dream about your next backyard adventure. Perhaps this year you are going to try a permaculture mound full of your favorite vegetables or you’ll create a native wildflower pollinator patch or, perhaps, design a bird sanctuary outside your favorite window? Wherever your imagination takes you, it is always advisable to begin with a map, a YardMap!Cornell Ornithology YardMap Yard Map

The YardMap Network is a citizen science project designed to cultivate a richer understanding of bird habitat, for both people concerned with their local environments and professional scientists. The program is housed at the Lab of Ornithology, in Ithaca, New York. We collect data by asking individuals across the country to literally draw maps of their backyards, parks, farms, favorite birding locations, schools, and gardens. We connect you with your landscape details and provide tools for you to make better decisions about how to manage landscapes sustainably.

In the United States, there are over 40 million acres of non-native lawns[1], about the size of Wisconsin. Some lawns serve practical purposes, such as space for kids to burn-off extra energy in a neighborhood game of soccer, but many acres of lawn exist out of horticultural habit, a default American garden landscape of sorts. With over 75% of endangered or threatened species occurring on private lands[2], the individual homeowner has the capacity to make a big difference in encouraging dynamic, native landscaping in place of non-functional lawn. So, keep a little lawn, the stuff you use, while letting us help you transform the rest of your property into a wildlife haven. 

We will ask you to outline your property and indicate the basic land-cover types in your yard.  Then, you can use simple drawing tools to showcase trees, bird feeders, compost bins, and the like, to show us the types of features you use to encourage wildlife and live more sustainably. It is a fun process that allows you to understand where you are at while beginning to envision where you want to go with your landscape.

YardMap has an active citizen scientist social network. There are 1,000s of others who have already joined the project, who have a wealth of knowledge to share with people just starting their wildlife landscaping journey.

With thousands of acres being transformed into residential landscape each year, we want to encourage everyone to think creatively about how to use their homes, apartments, farms, schools and parks to meet human needs, but also maximize habitat for North American plant and animal life. Join the YardMap community and become inspired for your next landscape adventure.

You can also follow YardMap on Facebook and Twitter for inspiration on gardens, birds, landscaping and much more.

[1] Milesi, C., S. W. Running, C. D. Elvidge, J. B. Dietz, B. Tuttle, and R. R. Nemani. 2005. “Mapping and Modeling the Biogeochemical Cycling of Turf Grasses in the United States.” Environmental Management 36 (3): 426–38.

[2] North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Committee. 2013. The State of the Birds 2013 Report. U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, D.C.

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