I had been printing it in the newsletter of the church where I used to work, until the decision was made to keep articles down to a single paragraph or two in the interest of bilingualism and an arbitrary six-page limit. After that, I posted it on the church weblog; but since I'm no longer there, the weblog hasn't been updated.
Dad doesn't have his own weblog, but I do. So here is his October column.
Are you practicing good environmental stewardship in the yard around your house? Or as one national organization would put it: Is your yard humane? Fall is an excellent time to make some of these changes to improve the environment that primarily you control.
Do you provide water and natural food sources for the creatures with which you share this environment? Birdbaths and ground level sources of water are important for just about every animal, not just birds. I see many squirrels up on our birdbaths and the bees so necessary for pollination also need a drink. A wetland behind our house is another source of water for much of the year. Native plants, bushes and trees are often the best, or only, foods that native animals will eat. The larva for the monarch butterfly only eat the several varieties of milkweed native to our area. Fall is one of the best times for planting trees, shrubs and perennial plants.
Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides on lawn and garden beds; insecticides frequently kill all insects, including the harmless and beneficial ones. Do you really want to get rid of those beautiful butterflies and moths? Many pesticides are also harmful to your pets if they are allowed out in the yard. Bees are some of the most beneficial insects that have been severely attacked by pesticides in the yard and on some plants as they come from the nursery. Check how the latter have been treated before you buy. I have never been an advocate of bee and butterfly houses, but many like them as decorations that may also be useful.
A major killer of birds is glass windows in homes as well as high-rise buildings. If you, like us, receive a number of window stickers from various organizations, sticking them on windows that birds may run into can be a major avian lifesaver. Birds either see a free pathway through the windows to the other side of the house or their own reflection which they may attack in mating season. Breaking up the space of clear glass with such decals is most important near bird feeders or bird baths.
That leads me to urging all cat owners to keep them in the house. Cats may be the top killers of song birds in this country. As President of the City of Racine Board of Health, let me remind you to license all your cats and dogs; it is the law in Racine and many other jurisdictions, even if they stay inside.
Native fauna need places to hide or rest. Therefore, it is generally good stewardship or humane to reduce the size of the mown lawn whenever possible. This might be with a rain garden accepting the water from the downspouts, an area of native ground cover, a small woods or copse of (native) trees. Another possibility, if you have the room as we do in the far back of our yard, is a brush pile. Fallen branches and trimming from trees and shrubs will quickly provide this extra cover for native fauna.
Another shelter that you may wish to include is a bat house. Bats have a bad reputation that they do not deserve. You may not need as much mosquito repellent if you attract bats to your yard to hold down the mosquito population.
If you have a swimming pool, take the necessary precautions to keep animals from falling in; presumably you have already taken the precautions necessary to keep those wild creatures called children and partying adults from doing the same. This too is good environmental stewardship.