Outline of Community Wildlife Sanctuary Certification Pilot Program

Phase 1 - Community Engagement

Approximate time frame: The first year

Communities completing Phase 1 are then designated as ‘Audubon-at-Home Habitat Friendly Communities.’


Track 1 - Community Agreement

The guidelines of the community are written to encourage healthy yard practices and to require them on common property.


Items 1-5 are required. Items 6-8 are encouraged but optional.

  1. No invasive plants are planted on community property

  2. A multi-year plan is put in place to control existing invasive plants

  3. Any new plantings on community property consist primarily of native plants

  4. Insecticides are not used on community property unless there is a hazard that needs to be addressed

  5. HOA rules for private properties allow the use of natural landscaping (See examples of sample language.)

  6. Use of fertilizer and other pesticides is reduced*

  7. The area of land covered by lawn grass is reduced

  8. Other ways to support birds and other wildlife

  • It is strongly encouraged to keep cats indoors

  • Guard against human-made hazards like window collision, light and noise pollution, and pest bait

*The term ‘pesticide’ includes insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides


Track 2 - Grassroots organization

Community Stewards canvas their neighborhoods to build interest and create a "movement” to become a ‘Habitat-Friendly Community.’


To Do:

Obtain agreement of 60 percent of homeowners 1) to support the formation of a “Habitat-Friendly Community” and 2) to commit to plant at least one native plant on their property.

Phase 2 - Establishing Functional Habitat. Become a certified wildlife sanctuary.

Community Stewards will award the certification once all criteria are met.

Approximate time frame: Up to three years

  1. Certified Community Part One: Healthy yard practices are implemented on the common property (where applicable) and 10 Sanctuary Species have been identified there.

  2. Certified Community Part Two: The community has accumulated enough points and 20 of the sanctuary species have been identified within the area.


Phase 3 - Aspirational: Achieving and maintaining the long term goal of truly functional habitat

Approximate time frame: Twenty or thirty years

  • 60% of planted areas occupied by native plants.

  • At least 30 Sanctuary Species are in evidence.

  • Storm water is contained within the communities


Getting Started - Phase 1

To be recognized as a ‘Habitat-Friendly Community’, residents of at least 60% of properties (and a minimum of four properties) in a neighborhood agree to support the community's aspiration to become a wildlife sanctuary, and commit to plant at least one more native plant in their yard within the next year.


Activities for the Community Steward(s) (It is recommended that one be an AAH Ambassador, if if one of your neighbors happens to be one.)

  • Define the boundaries of the community, which could (but does not have to) correlate with the boundaries of a previously defined area such as a homeowner's association.

  • Canvas your neighbors (see suggestion for a script below).

  • Build a communications platform, such as a newsletter or social media page, to keep the project in the forefront of everyone’s minds.

  • Identify potential allies.

  • Host events, if desired.

  • Distribute educational information periodically.

  • Start to make an inventory of healthy yard practices in your neighborhood. (See Phase 2, still under development.)


One suggested script (There are many ways you could approach this.)

  • Hi, I'm ______. I live right over there.

  • I'm going around the neighborhood trying to make it safe for birds and pollinators.

  • I only have one question. Would you like to support a community effort to support the birds, bees, and butterflies in our neighborhood? Our goal is to gradually improve our yards (and community property, if applicable) to make them more bird friendly.

  • If so, may I add your name to our list? Once we have the residents of X number of properties involved, we get to call ourselves a 'Habitat-Friendly Community’ and have a block party to celebrate. It will be held on Y date at Z location. This list is only for our own use - we won’t share it with anyone.

  • We are asking everyone to start by agreeing to add at least one more native plant in their yard within the next year.


Some ideas for helping your neighbors plant their first native plant

  • Point out the short list of easy plants on the Phase 1 Handout.

  • Sell or give them a copy of the Native Plants for Northern Virginia guide

  • Direct them to www.plantnovanatives.org and the plant search app.

  • Consider having a planting weekend and provide the plants. A flat of Asclepias tuberosa plugs could do the trick, or perhaps a Lonicera sempervirens or some other plant for everyone’s mailbox.


Things you might want to bring when canvassing

  • Phase 1 Handout - feel free to adapt it for your neighborhood

  • Sign-Up Sheet - with clipboard and pen

  • A hat or a T-shirt to identify yourself may be helpful. For instance, you could order a T-shirt that says “Ask me about native plants!” from the Plant NOVA Natives CafePress store.

  • A copy of the Native Plants for Northern Virginia guide, available online or in our store.

  • A map of the neighborhood where you can color in the participating properties. You can find those on your county’s websites.

  • Photos of very neat-and-tidy native plantings, such as this one which is only shrubs, or this one which shows a very simple plant palate, or this one that shows the very easy step of simply plunking down trees in the middle of lawn.  (More can be found in this folder.)