Fort Collins Conservation District

Ron Neher

Share Your Space with Wildlife

By: Ron Neher, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Retired

Back in 1998, my family and I took a vacation to Wisconsin. I hadn’t been there before, - so why not. As we ventured eastward out of North Dakota and through Minnesota, we started noticing farming operations of cranberries. After settling in at our time share, we spent one whole day touring a cranberry farm and learning about their unique operation. One thing that stood out was the large percentage of land on cranberry farms that is not used in farming but devoted to wildlife. Surprisingly you do not hear about that on the cranberry commercials on television, - but that’s another story.

Providing for wildlife is so important, - not just on a large farming operation but also in back yards and on small acreages used for rural development.

Back in the early days, before my time, I think there were a lot of bad attitudes when a farmer or rancher decided to claim a piece of land for “production agriculture.” He put a fence around the acreage and demanded that “competition” stay out, - whatever the competition was, - and patrolled it in one way or another in an attempt to get his way. Anything that even potentially ate his crop was trespassing and was noted as “guilty.” You can figure out the rest of the story.

Things have changed somewhat over time. Most people, - I said most people, - are not of that firm mindset. Today we see more and more agricultural land being devoted to wildlife. Some wildlife habitat is created through conservation programs. However, some is developed by land owners on their own through grass seeding, tree plantings, creation of food plots, and water developments on land which is possibly better given back to wildlife instead of fighting with steep slopes, erosion hazards, or other land features which hinder productive farming or ranching operations. In addition, land in drainages, as well as wetland areas near rural developments along the Front Range in Colorado, are being kept as natural as possible for local birds, animals, and other creatures. Man has learned over time that we actually do need wildlife for our existence. It is important to note that wildlife is more than just robins and cottontails, - it includes much more. Providing space for them is critical for the well being of man.

So what can you do on smaller acreages if you are not a farmer or rancher with an abundance of land? There are countless zillions of things one can do to provide for wildlife if you let your mind wander. You probably are already doing some things you don’t even realize. If so, then maybe you can do more. Providing water is important. Also, development of secluded areas are favored by many species of birds, animals, and reptiles, - yes, I said reptiles. Food sources are critical as well.

The internet is just full of ideas. Log in on your favorite search engine, click away, and get with it. In a short amount of time you will have so many ideas you will not know where to start. If you come up with too many ideas, - share them and let someone else get involved. If you are having trouble getting started on what to do to provide for wildlife, try the following website, - http://www.tn.gov/twra/pdfs/backyardbooklet.pdf, - for ideas. It is a 28-page pdf file which should provide some enlightenment. There are many more websites besides this one which will get you going with more ideas than you have space for, - and wouldn’t that be a nice problem to have?