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Votes

Protecting Wildlife Habitats

Each year, Susan Kuklick marks on her calendar when the hummingbirds arrive.

The Broadlands resident realized that when she moved in seven years ago and saw a bear in her backyard, both the front and backyards had the potential to attract wildlife. With the help of friends, she and her husband Eric Kuklick turned the half-acre lot, which was 90 percent wetlands, into a certified National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Backyard Wildlife Habitat. They planted cypress trees and ornamental grasses in the backyard, which had not been seeded or graded when they moved in, along with perennials in both yards to attract birds and butterflies.

"It's a nice thing to have in your own home that you can enjoy and be part of," said Kuklick, who sees hummingbirds in her yard from the third week of April until November and in the winter months, blue jays using a heated birdbath. The mother of two said that Broadlands has enough playgrounds and soccer fields she does not have to keep her yard a play area and "can give it back to nature."

KUKLICK'S BACKYARD is one of about 15 yards in Broadlands with the NWF certification. To achieve certification as a Community Wildlife Habitat, Broadlands is required to turn 15 percent or about 245 yards in the 1,642-unit development into certified wildlife habitats, along with meeting several other requirements.

In March, Broadlands received registration as a Community Wildlife Habitat site, a first step toward official certification ranking the development as the 20th and most recently registered community. A Habitat Team of five families organized applying for the registration and eventual certification, beginning work in February 2002 to finish by 2007, the same year the development is scheduled for completion.

"Community Wildlife Habitat is a larger-scale plan to try to get a whole community wildlife-friendly. It takes the basic of the program from backyards to multiple locations throughout the community," said Jan Newell, nature activities director of the Broadlands Association, which has a total of five staff members.

A Community Wildlife Habitat provides a sustainable landscape requiring little or no pesticides or fertilizers and helps keep water and air resources clean while providing food, water and shelter for wildlife. The Habitat Team encouraged participation in the Community Wildlife Habitat program by starting a demonstration NWF garden in fall 2002 and holding nature-related educational activities each year. The activities include community planting days using native and drought-tolerant plants, a cleanup week every April, and tree transplant days that Broadlands Associates initiated in 1997 for residents to transplant trees from developing areas to their homes.

"The developer started out the community by saving a lot of trees," Newell said. "We're trying to encourage residents to continue that in their own yard, so we don't lose what the developer gave us."

BROADLANDS ASSOCIATES, a partnership between Terrabrook and The Van Metre Companies, started construction on the 1,500-acre Broadlands development in 1995, opening the first units a year later. The development, which is located between Belmont Ridge Road and the Dulles Greenway near Waxpool Road, includes trails, woods, wetlands and wildlife preserves in the main Stream Valley Park that runs through the property.

The Habitat Team plans to certify Stream Valley Park along with the Broadlands Nature & Information Center. One of three schools in Broadlands, Hillside Elementary School, was officially certified as a wildlife habitat in spring 2001. A second school also has to be certified for Broadlands to qualify for certification, a project proposed for the fall at Mill Run Elementary School.

For Habitat Team leader Laura Floyd, certification of the private yards will be the biggest challenge for achieving community certification. "Residents are not sure why they should certify their yards," said Floyd, who achieved certification for her own backyard in September 2002 after she and her husband William Floyd planted native trees, bushes and perennials and added a bird bath and bird feeders. "We end up spending a lot of time in the backyard watching the animals and things like that. We actually see a lot more wildlife in the back," she said. "There already are trees and open spaces preserved. This helps to enhance that."

Newell's front yard also is certified. "My front yard looks like a habitat. It's beautiful," she said.

Four communities in the nation have achieved certification as Community Wildlife Habitats.