Wild Yards improve wildlife habitat, save time and promote natural beauty

Do you want to be part of a movement that helps native plants and wildlife thrive and save time and money maintaining your property? The West Virginia Division of Natural Resource’s Wild Yards Program was started in 1998 to help backyard landscapers create and maintain wildlife habitat, which not only promotes the WVDNR’s Wildlife Resources Section’s conservation efforts but supports landowners across the state.

Across the state, more than 400 landowners have embraced this opportunity to not only enhance biodiversity on their property but also reclaim their connection with nature and reduce the burdens of traditional landscaping. Join us as we delve into the inspiring world of Wild Yards and discover how you can make a meaningful impact on West Virginia’s natural landscape.

Why Go Wild?

Native plants are a great addition to your property. Not only do they enhance the appearance of your yard, they provide many additional benefits. In general, native plants need less maintenance once established, provide year-round beauty, can help save money on your heating, cooling and water bills and support rare wildlife in your area.

Benefit 1: Wild Yards Are Important
West Virginia plants and animals evolved together and many species of wildlife depend on native plants to meet their needs. For example, many species of butterfly will only nest on one kind of plant, such as the state insect, Monarch butterflies,which only lay their eggs on milkweed.

Because of this, backyard vegetation (trees, shrubs and flowers) that consists of at least 70 percent native species on average hosts 50 percent more native bird species, three times more butterfly species and twice the number of native bee species.

Benefit 2: Wild Yards Are Beautiful
The variety of shapes, colors and textures found among native plants can provide year-round beauty to your yard. Wild Yards landscaped with native plants help prevent soil erosion and reduce runoff better than yards with non-native species and turf grass lawns

Benefit 3: Wild Yards Make Sense
Using native plants in your yard and landscaping with wildlife in mind can save you money in the long term. For example, native trees provide shade in summer and windbreaks in winter which can reduce heating and cooling costs. Native plants adapted for your local soil and climate typically don’t need fertilizing or extra water and require less maintenance once established. On the other hand, many non-native garden plants and turf grasses require a lot of maintenance and care. 

Another benefit of having a wild yard is that setting aside part of your yard for wildlife reduces the amount of lawn that you have to mow, which reduces noise pollution from lawn mowers and leaf blowers.

Bring Nature to Your Backyard

You don’t have to own a lot of land to have a wild yard and make a difference for wildlife. All you need to do is to make your yard a welcoming environment for wildlife is provide these four necessary components: 

  1. Food
  2. Water
  3. Cover
  4. Places to raise young

You can start small by providing feeders, birdbaths and nest boxes for a few backyard songbirds, or dream big and plant milkweed for butterflies in your garden or restore a native meadow for dozens of species. Whatever you do, try to follow the Rule of Three to increase the diversity of plants and wildlife that will be attracted to your yard.

  • 3 species of plants
  • 3 different shapes and colors
  • 3 blooming times to cover the whole growing season (spring, summer, early fall). 

Whether you live on a quarter-acre suburban lot, a five-acre townhouse development or in a city apartment, you can provide habitat for wildlife right where you’re at. If you want to take the next step or if you have a larger property, consider reaching out to the Natural Resources Conservation Service or other organizations which provide both technical and financial assistance for improving and maintaining wildlife habitat on your property.

Resources to Help You Start Your Wild Yard

If you want to dive deeper into the Wild Yards Program and explore additional resources that can help you create a wildlife habitat in your backyard, visit wvdnr.gov/conservation-education for more information. If you need suggestions on which plants to put in your yard,  check out the WVDEP Native Plant Selection Tool for a list of high-value plants for wildlife that are native to your area.

If you want to find the perfect native plants to populate your Wild Yard, check out our curated list of Native Plant Suppliers at wvdnr.gov/native-plants-sources.

If you want to get into the nitty gritty details of maintaining a flourishing Wild Yard, download our Wild Yards Manual.

Join the Wild Yards Movement Today

Ready to embark on your Wild Yard journey? Fill out an application today and showcase your commitment to nurturing native wildlife on your property. Have questions or need guidance? Contact the WVDNR Wildlife Resources Section for expert assistance and support. Together, let’s transform your yard into a haven for wildlife and a beacon of conservation.