It’s been said that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” but for Aledo’s Jennifer Mosakowski, that beauty is closer than one might think - just outside her back door.The southern Louisiana transplant’s property, along with the help of her husband Philip, has recently been recognized as one of Texas’ best backyard wildlife habitats by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Through the Best of Texas Backyard Habitat program, they have also been certified as Texas Wildscapes and National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitats. The Mosakowski family has joined the many habitat enthusiasts who, with the help of NWF and TPWD, have turned their backyards into enticing wildlife refuges.Mosakowski said getting started was like peeling an onion - it had lots of layers.“One thing you must do is inventory some items on your property,” she said. “So I reached out to the regional office manager for the NWF and she gave me a link to TAMU http://texastreeid.tamu.edu/content/howToID/ which could help me identify natives plants on the property.”She said she had to sketch her property and submit pictures.“It was a little more time consuming than I anticipated but was a fun project to do,” she added. “I wish my daughter would have been old enough to ‘hunt’ for items with me.” Mosakowski said she had to get rid of some evasive plants that were planted on the property and that predatory animals were forbidding to roam freely.She said that there was a lot of detail work involved in getting the property ready to be certified. “You have to have natural resources - not just feeders available throughout the year,” she said.Mosakowski said she wishes there were a way to convey to everyone how any yard can become a wildlife habit. “Small choices like planting things to attract wildlife or just a water source,” she said. “It really could be a fun project for a family to become involved with and watch their habit grow. I honestly see more hummingbirds on live plants than feeders. Even butterflies are beautiful to watch and could be attracted into a small backyard.”Her concern is that her generation has become a dying breed, one that had to go out and play. “It is just as important to me to teach my children the simple pleasures in life,” she said. “The new generation have way too much exposure to the tech world. I'm sure few of them have chased fireflies or even caught a toad. This has been such a special place watching nature through the eyes of a 4 year-old.”The NWF began the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program in 1973, and has since certified over 33,000 habitats nationwide. In 1994, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department joined the backyard habitat effort, introducing the Texas Wildscapes program, which has certified more than 4,000 properties and more than 15,000 acres as suitable habitat for wildlife. These sites represent the hard work and commitment of individuals and families providing habitat near their homes like the Mosakowski garden, but schools, businesses and community sites have also joined the effort to conserve our natural heritage. The average habitat is between 1/3 and 2 acres, but certified sites range from urban balconies to thousand-acre areas.Most people recognize the importance of protecting the environment, but few understand how one, person can make a difference, Craig Tuffs, chief naturalist for NWF suggested.“Building a habitat is one example of how a single person or family can do something that can have a long-term positive impact,” he said. “Persuading your neighbors to join with you can lead to a neighborhood or community habitat, which provides wildlife with even more incentive to call your ‘”piece of the earth” home.”For more information on how you can create a Best of Backyard Habitat, please contact the National Wildlife Federation at 512-476-9811 or Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at 512-389-4644. Remember, Texas is our backyard – let’s share it with nature.
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902 Twitter: @Lancewinter