October 8, 2007
Bringing nature home in LP
By Ivan Raconteur
In an age when the goal in some residential developments seems to be to bulldoze everything in sight to make way for sterile, homogeneous neighborhoods, Lester Prairie Mayor Eric Angvall has taken another course.
Angvall’s yard was recently certified as an official wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
Although he lives in town, a walk through Angvall’s yard is like entering a forest.
Leaves crunch underfoot, birds fill the trees, and squirrels and other small creatures can be seen and heard in abundance.
Angvall has been interested in environmental issues since before they became fashionable, and he said he has wanted to get his yard certified for years, but never got around to it until now.
The Wildlife Federation began the certification program in 1973, and has certified more than 86,000 habitats nationwide.
“It doesn’t need to be an 80-acre spread; a window box will do,” Angvall said.
According to the Wildlife Federation, the average habitat is between one-third and one-half acre, but certified sites can range from urban balconies to 1,000-acre tracts.
Schools, hospitals, parks, office buildings, and apartments have all been certified.
“It may not seem like much, but if everyone does a little bit, it can make a big difference,” Angvall said.
In order to be certified, a property must provide the four elements that all wildlife need: food, water, cover, and places to raise young. It must also employ sustainable gardening practices.
Angvall said thinking about wildlife habitat changes the decision- making process.
When he built his house, he situated it on the lot in a way to minimize tree loss.
Instead of leveling everything to make room for a lawn, Angvall kept as many of the native plants as possible.
He said this makes it much more interesting because of the variety of shapes, sizes and textures, but it has the added benefits of reducing the need for watering and maintenance.
“I like it because I have less lawn to mow,” Angvall commented.
The goal of the program is to certify 1 million sites by the end of the year. Angvall hopes some of those sites will be in Lester Prairie.
He also hopes to work with the park board to get the Sunrise Nature Park certified.
Angvall said Lester Prairie has a long tradition of leading the way on environmental issues, having been the first city in the county to adopt a recycling program, starting a pilot program for school energy savings, and being a leader implementing a ride-share program.
When Angvall adds plants to his yard, he focuses on both diversity and on using indigenous plants.
He is sure to include some food- bearing plants to provide nuts and berries for wildlife.
He has also added some memories to the yard by transferring plants and trees from his cabin and from his wife, Judy’s grandmother’s farm.
There is a peacefulness about Angvall’s yard. The trees and shrubs form a natural barrier to create privacy and muffle outside noise.
Angvall enjoys sitting outdoors and watching the variety of birds and animals that visit his yard.
Grey squirrels and fox squirrels jump from tree to tree as they travel along the squirrel highway, while birds chatter, a young raccoon naps in a hole in one of the trees, and chipmunks scurry around a woodpile near the stream at the back of the property.
Angvall says he enjoys the serenity and watching the seasons change.
Having an awareness of the needs of wildlife can make us think about things differently, and can alter our decisions, Angvall said.
He leaves some of the fallen branches on the ground to provide cover.
He keeps a compost bin to improve the gardens, and has numerous bird feeders to accommodate the wide variety of birds.
The Wildlife Federation says habitat restoration is critical in urban and suburban areas, where commercial and residential development encroaches on natural wildlife areas.
Certified habitats also conserve natural resources by reducing or eliminating the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and water, which can help protect the air, soil and water throughout our communities, according to the Wildlife Federation.
Angvall hopes that others will think about making their yards more wildlife-friendly.
“If everyone does just a little bit, the results can be amazing,” Angvall said.