Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Get Your Garden Certified By Bergen County Audubon Society!

For all of us that have grown up or lived around the Meadowlands or anywhere in New Jersey for any length of time,  we all know far too well how much natural surroundings we have lost over the years. Today our preserved natural areas have become a quilt work of fragmented fields and forests that have become surrounded by suburban overdevelopment and landscaped with foreign plant species.

This has stressed our birds, butterflies and pollinator population to their limits with little left for their battle for survival. And to make matters worse New Jersey may be the first state to reach “buildout,”  which simply means that one day that all land in the Garden State will be either built on or preserved, and that will be it. In the end that will leave us with vast areas of wasteland when it comes to wildlife unless we save the landscape in which we live.

In a concerted effort to connect and expand our forests, nature centers and preserves with a series of steppingstones that benefit migratory birds, butterflies and other wildlife, Bergen County Audubon has a Free program that the entire community, no matter where you live, can take part in to help reverse the tide of habitat loss.

Our Certified Wildlife Garden program  allows homeowners, communities, schools, businesses, places of worship, nature centers and others anywhere in New Jersey and for that matter any state at all ( we now also have NY and PA) to have their gardens that benefit wildlife certified by Bergen County Audubon Society.

These certified gardens, of which there are now 118, are based 99 percent on the diversity of native plants in the landscape, which are the true foundation of a healthy wildlife habitat. This program helps create and track wildlife environments that will ultimately form rest stops that will benefit not only our year-round wildlife but the migratory species well.

Although I have worked on habitat restoration projects for many years, the importance  of preserving our backyard ecosystems was brought home to me a few summers ago.

A BCAS volunteer was participating in our annual Monarch tagging program, in which the Monarch butterflies are tagged with a number to track their annual migration. We were taken aback when we found out that the butterflies that were tagged in his garden in Palisades Park showed up a few days later in another BCAS member’s butterfly garden in Hackensack. This  proved our point that every backyard habitat is important. We knew then we had to find a way to get as many people onboard to restore the ecology of all our backyards.

Certified gardens are given a number and marked on a map to illustrate wildlife areas that have been created. The map is available on our website, .Upon completion and submission of your application it will be reviewed and, if approved, you will be awarded a certificate for your efforts. The certificate will be emailed to you free of charge. In addition metal signs will be provided for free to every home, school, business and place of worship that is certified.

This is something we all can do today. We will not need to write letters, call our representatives or hold picket signs. No matter the size of your yard you have the power to turn it into a beautiful landscape that benefits our birds and butterflies and will help our future generations of both people and wildlife live in a much healthier and happier community.

On Earth Day  we will be giving a seminar on at the DeKorte Park Environment Center  on how to create Certified Wildlife Gardens that will help our birds and butterflies and also make our community a better place for all of us to live.

To download an application for certification and our wildlife garden brochure go to

Please contact me if you need more information. You can reach me at or 201-230-4983.


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