The Habitat Stewards are a group dedicated to helping community members create wildlife habitat in their backyards, schoolgrounds, church properties, and anywhere else there is a bit of land. The group originally focused on getting Bloomington certified as a Wildlife
Community Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation in 2008. They continue to provide information about creating a backyard habitat in the form of handouts, tours, workshops, and habitat steward trainings.
The Habitat Stewards and CSL Director Lucille Bertuccio worked with the Bloomington Environmental Commission several years ago to develop a Natural Landscaping brochure and five fact sheets specific to Bloomington. These documents have taken the national Backyard Wildlife Habitat principles and applied them to our local ecosystem, explaining the basic philosophy and how to grow local native plants, as well as some wildlife water and shelter needs. These materials are available in PDF format to download off the city’s website here: http://bloomington.in.gov/documents/viewDocument.php?document_id=261
For information on how to certify your backyard, schoolground, or church property as an official certified wildlife habitat, please check out the National Wildlife Federation website – http://www.nwf.org/How-to-Help/Garden-for-Wildlife.aspx. While Bloomington as a community is now certified, we’d love to see additional properties with good habitat!
October 2008 – Bloomington has finally achieved designation as a Community Wildlife Habitat after six years of hard work by the Center for Sustainable Living, Bloomington Parks and Recreation and Monroe County Parks and Recreation. AND, of course, by the many homes, businesses, schools and churches that have certified their backyards through the National Wildlife Federation. We are the 27th City in the nation and the second city in Indiana to be so designated. Zionsville, a much smaller city has been certified for a number of years. This certification shows that the citizens of Bloomington are interested and knowledgeable about the environment, and are willing to take action to support healthy choices for humans and wildlife.
Bloomington’s Natural History and Commitment to Wildlife Habitat
Bloomington lies 45 miles south of Indianapolis in south-central Indiana, a land of limestone, karst, ravines, mesic forests, neotropical migratory songbirds, and the home of Indiana University.
Approximately 500 million years ago a shallow sea covered Indiana. Crinoids waved their feathery legs in the same area where now the Trout Lily (pictured at right), one of our beautiful spring wildflowers, entices pollinators.
Today, stream-sides and stream bottoms are littered with the calcified remains of crinoids and other fossils.
Tiny shelled-creatures, drifted to the bottom of this shallow sea and were pressed into limestone by the layers of sediments on top of them. This dimension-quality material has been used in the formation of buildings, and carved into statues and stone decorations. Underground limestone bedrock dissolved into this region’s karst topography that includes sinkholes, disappearing streams, and caves. Some of these caves are protected hibernacula for the federally endangered Indiana Bat. The other events were actually “non-events.” The paths of the Illinoian and Wisconsin glaciers bypassed Bloomington and Southern Indiana due to an escarpment at the northern edge of Monroe County. The force of the melting glacial waters created the dissected terrain of ravines and steep hillsides.
Hemlock, and the rare Trailing Arbutus (pictured at left), still exist as reminders of our cold glacial past. Additionally some “tropical” plants call Indiana home, such as Papaws and Passion Flower. Ravines and woods are covered each spring with ephemerals blooming in that small slice of time between snow melt and leaf emergence.
Five hundred years ago trees formed an unbroken canopy, clothing ravines and bottomland with an edible palate of flowers, fruits and nuts, a cornucopia for both wildlife and humans. Shrubs provided nesting areas for the neotropical migratory songbirds (like the Scarlet Tanager pictured at right) that still travel their ancient paths to South and Central America in the fall. They can be enticed to visit our gardens on their way to the Hoosier National Forest because of the insects that flourish under our no chemical-spray regime.
Bloomington’s Planning Department encourages developers to plant native wild plants instead of the usual junipers and yews. And, Bloomington Parks Department has restored the creek in Bryan Park to its natural condition. No longer is it mowed to the lip of the creek but now features many native wildflowers which bloom in the fall and help speed the Monarch on its migratory flight. The Bryan Park Neighborhood Association received a grant to restore a tributary of the creek, and hiking trails are also outlined with native prairie species. Even Indiana University cultivates small prairie gardens in planters and lawns.