Wildlife Habitat Council Unveils New Certification Program, Brand Identity and Website at WHC Conservation Conference 2015

By Monica Keller, Director, Marketing and Communications|November 11, 2015

SILVER SPRING, MD, November 11, 2015 – Today, Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) President, Margaret O’Gorman, unveiled Wildlife Habitat Council Conservation Certification, WHC’s new certification program. She also officially launched the new WHC brand identity and website.

WHC Conservation Certification recognizes meaningful and committed natural resource conservation programs on corporate lands. Programs that meet the established criteria are eligible for recognition through Conservation Certification, which provides a unique third-party, validation that attests to the quality of the conservation programs.

“WHC Conservation Certification sets the standard for corporate conservation,” said O’Gorman. “It provides a clear and consistent path towards high quality projects that bring value to both people and planet. Built around 25 possible habitat, species and education projects encompassed in the newly published Project Guidances, the new standard is designed to be accessible, flexible, credible, and ultimately drive change on corporate lands of all types.”

“There are many aspects of the new standard that appeal,” said WHC Board Chair Kevin Butt, General Manager and Chief Environmental Officer, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. “At the operational level, the Project Guidances provide a robust resource for project implementation, while the data collection through the online application provides many exciting reporting opportunities at the corporate level.”

The specifics of the standard set out in the Project Guidances, like the conservation objectives and the higher-level action strategies were developed with external stakeholders from government, NGO, education, academia and consulting firms and define the components of a strong project and the conditions that deem a project outstanding through Conservation Certification.

In addition to the launch of Conservation Certification, WHC unveiled its first rebrand in is 26 year history. The new brand serves to more closely align WHC with the innovative companies and organizations it serves. The key components of the new brand identity include a new logo and the new tagline: “Every act of conservation matters.”  Specific features of the logo include:

  • The leaf representing nature or habitat. The leaf evolves into a circle and an arrow indicating flow or an ongoing process.
  • The circle connects and encapsulates the other features, showing how they are part of a larger, holistic global system.
  • The dark blue shape represents the built environment and the people associated with Wildlife Habitat Council programs. It is constructed of building blocks, which also convey process and growth.
  • The light blue field under the building represents clean water, an essential component of successful conservation and habitat restoration programs.

“Both the brand and its assets – the logo, the website, the language, the graphics – convey a clear and concise message about Wildlife Habitat Council,” said Monica Keller, Director, Marketing and Communications. “That we help corporations implement conservation and education projects on their lands, we recognize this work through our certification standard, and we communicate the impacts.”

The Conservation Certification online application will go live in early 2016.

About Wildlife Habitat Council

Wildlife Habitat Council promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on corporate lands through partnerships and education. WHC’s programs take corporate sustainability goals and objectives and translate them into tangible and measurable on-the-ground actions. Through a focus on building collaboration for conservation with corporate employees, other conservation organizations, government agencies and community members, WHC programs focus on healthy ecosystems and connected communities. WHC-assisted wildlife habitat and conservation education programs are found in 45 states, the District of Columbia and 13 countries. www.wildlifehc.org

Contact:  Patricia Leidemer, Wildlife Habitat Council, 240.247.0933, pleidemer@wildlifehc.org


Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. Hosts Annual Symposium for Environment and Education

By Katie Basiotis, Conservation Specialist|October 31, 2015

For 21 years, Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. has sponsored an annual Symposium for Environment and Education, challenging middle school students in partner communities to identify an environmental issue and work towards a solution. The symposium fosters teamwork and helps teachers to incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) concepts. It also aligns with the company’s business goals of protecting the environment and promoting sustainability.

Photo courtesy of Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.

Photo courtesy of Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.

Students from approximately 15 schools throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Florida work with their teachers and Wheelabrator employees to identify an environmental issue in their community and research a practical, sustainable solution. Students then engage the local news media, local leaders, and the community to share their results and elicit feedback. The experience culminates in a four-day conference in Baltimore where the teams present their projects.

Wheelabrator Falls Inc., located in Falls Township, PA, sponsored the Morrisville Intermediate/High School students’ participation in the 2015 symposium. The student group, known as the MV Aviators, has participated in two previous symposia. This year they decided to make Morrisville an Audubon-recognized Bird Town. The MV Aviators formed partnerships with the Bucks County Conservation District and the Master Gardeners to organize a community event to promote bird-friendly practices. The event was open to the public and participants built nest boxes and assembled “seed bombs,” which are balls of compressed soil interspersed with seeds. Attendees were encouraged to pledge to use native plants on their property. Wheelabrator Falls Inc. has maintained WHC programs since 2012.

Wheelabrator Gloucester L.P., located in Westville, NJ, helped students from West Deptford Middle School to study the link between storm drains, freshwater mussels, and water health. Students wanted to increase community awareness of the link between water health and keeping streets pollution-free. The students prepared a survey for their peers to take, with specific questions about storm drains and their effect on waterways in general and freshwater mussels in particular. The group stenciled the school’s storm drains with the words “No dumping, drains to waterways” and distributed brochures about storm drains to each homeroom class. A highlight of the project was teaching fourth-graders about pollution and mussels through lessons, interactive games, and mussel dissection. Wheelabrator Gloucester L.P. has maintained WHC programs since 2009.

This Halloween, Embrace the Creepy-Crawlies!

By Katie Basiotis, Conservation Specialist|October 29, 2015

Part 2: Spiders

Spiders may resemble insects, but they are actually arachnids, with eight legs and two body segments. This is in contrast to insects, which have six legs and three body segments. Although they have venomous fangs, most spiders are too small to be a threat to humans. Many spiders eat insects and other spiders, although some eat fish and even birds.

SpiderA common type of spider is the orb-weaver, made famous by “Charlotte’s Web.” This family of spiders contains 25% of all spider species worldwide. These spiders make the familiar vertical web with a circular grid around spokes radiating from the center. The spider can move along the non-sticky spokes, or radii, while the sticky spiral grid traps prey. They need upright vegetation such as grass, shrubs, or trees to attach their webs to, so look for them in your forest or grassland habitats or along the banks of streams.

The marbled orb weaver (Araneus marmoreus) can be found throughout Canada and the United States, as well as Europe and northern Asia. This species has a yellow and black marbled abdomen; in the fall the yellow sometimes darkens to orange, giving it the nickname of Halloween or pumpkin spider. Rather than sit in the center of its web, the marbled orb weaver hides in a shelter of folded-over leaves at the edge of the web. Once it feels the vibrations of trapped prey, it rushes out to give its prey a venomous bite and wrap it in silk.

Their scurrying little legs and lurking behavior might send shivers down your spine, but orb-weavers are actually beneficial to humans. They eat many pest insects, including mosquitoes, ants, flies, and even the non-native invasive brown marmorated stink bug. Orb-weavers also serve as prey for many birds. Now that you know a bit more about these fascinating creatures, the next time you see an orb spider you may find yourself thinking about how they fit into an ecosystem and not how scary they are. So with one thing less to fear this year, have a very happy Halloween!

NestWatch: Building a Team, Building Habitat

By Paul Messing|October 26, 2015

Heading up the NestWatch program at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, has been a rewarding, eye-opening experience. Rewards include working with others on the wildlife habitat committee at a deeper level, learning in much greater detail the workings of a nest, and thinking more day-to-day about birds nesting on the work campus, both in natural nests and in bird houses.

WL_bird in sky - ospreyAs I kicked off the NestWatch program, I was quickly connected to the tools available to support the site’s activities. It’s more than just diving into the website and entering data. By connecting with the NestWatch Project Leader directly, I found the program has ample support from the staff at Cornell. There is someone there to answer questions, join you on the first training or kickoff meeting through a teleconference, and provide interesting materials to communicate the program to people in the office. The strong support made launching our program much easier, but you really need to know to ask for this if you are trying to involve a new, widespread group of people in volunteering to contribute data to NestWatch. The success of the team really started by leveraging the resources available from Cornell.

More people than I could have imagined have participated in the NestWatch program. In the past, with citizen science projects like eBird, I had worked largely at an individual level. With NestWatch, the program worked really well as a group project. People that love nature photography, those that like getting their hands dirty building bird houses, and even managers who enjoy nature all teamed up to play roles in monitoring nests at the site. These people all came out to play their part on the team, and it has really helped to deepen the connection to the team working on the habitat committee.

I never imagined, back when I was checking the two bird houses and finding House Sparrows, that I would be writing about the success of a team that has, just in our third year, monitored the return of Cliff Swallows to nest, watched a Red-Tailed Hawk chick fledge from a nest, and teamed up to name and band Peregrine Falcons on the company’s engineering campus.

Lawn to Woodland: Try This, You’ll Like It!

By Luba Sitar|October 26, 2015

Large expanses of lawn have been a traditional staple for corporate grounds for years, but there is a new trend in corporate and private landscapes: Lawns are being replaced with woodlands. Changing corporate lawns over to woodland habitat can bring many environmental benefits, but is it right for your business? Can you change?

Luba SitarThe lawns-to-woodlands trend is recognized in an Arbor Day Foundation program that assists Maryland property owners with converting turf plots larger than one acre. Maryland participants in the program receive free advice, free trees, planting and help monitoring the woodland. Program participation does not place any restrictions on the property, and the trees are planted in locations selected by the property owner. The program is a good way to get started on converting a lawn to a woodland for Maryland residents.

A corporate woodland can provide a community with improved water quality, cleaner air*, cooler temperatures**, and improved wildlife habitat as well as bragging rights to all those benefits in the annual report. While transitioning acres of lawn to a woodland all at once is a comprehensive and cost-efficient approach, changing corporate culture and retraining ground maintenance crews will take more time, so it’s wise to begin slowly.

To begin, choose a section or edge of the lawn, stop mowing a 20- to 40-foot width of grass, and plant a few trees and a few middle-story shrubs in this area, choosing them for diversity and interest. You can also make this woodland purposeful by adding fruit trees and native wildflower seedlings. Plan to extend the woodland every other year or so, giving employees time to adjust to the new vision. Shrinking the lawn slowly, in stages, allows ground maintenance crews to integrate the different maintenance required of a woodland, and this will enhance the success of the transition. Remember to plan on walking paths for employees by leaving wide strips of grass winding through the woodland.

Just as in nature, your woodland will grow and extend, replacing lawn area. What was once a large, open, rarely used lawn will now be a woodland that is far more interesting and useful, with wildlife and attractive flora for employees to enjoy.

* “One 10 year old hardwood tree can sequester up to 11.2 lbs of carbon a year and that number doubles at 20 years old.” US DOE Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases April 1998.

**Evapotranspiration, alone or in combination with shading, can help reduce peak summer temperatures by 2–9°F (1–5°C). Huang, J., H. Akbari, and H. Taha. 1990. The Wind-Shielding and Shading Effects of Trees on Residential Heating and Cooling Requirements. ASHRAE Winter Meeting, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Atlanta, Georgia. Kurn, D., S. Bretz, B. Huang, and H. Akbari. 1994. The Potential for Reducing Urban Air Temperatures and Energy Consumption through Vegetative Cooling (PDF) (31 pp, 1.76MB). ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Pacific Grove, California.

GIS Maps and Your Site

By Heather Esper|October 26, 2015

From simple visualization and spatial analysis to the integration of complex database management, geographic information systems (GIS) software (such as ESRI ArcGIS, Google Earth and LandScope) can enhance facility planning and management. For many companies, GIS has become an integral part of daily activities and can be used across a range of subject areas including ecology and natural resources, air quality, site investigation and remediation, and others.

Many WHC members may find GIS useful for visualizing and understanding their site’s resources, which may include potential constraints to development due to jurisdictional or sensitive habitat features requiring regulatory compliance or permitting. Through the integration of publicly available geospatial data and resources, the site will have the ability to identify and understand local features that can support their conservation projects (e.g., conservation easements, waterways, wetlands or sensitive habitat). In turn, the facility will have a broader understanding of the resources on their site and how theses may relate to nearby features.

Integration of GIS mapping and database management with WHC monitoring forms may also be useful for the following:

  • Invasive species identification, management and monitoring (in conjunction with monitoring logs or databases);
  • Recording locations of wildlife observations including nest boxes, bat boxes, scat observations, raptor nests, wildlife tracks, etc.;
  • Current wetland and other habitat or vegetation mapping;
  • Survey locations and methods (monitoring grid or meander);
  • Maintenance strategy depicted by method and location (for instance mowing versus herbicide).

GIS tools (both printed and online versions) can help individuals more efficiently manage progress and budgets at multiple sites. Furthermore, GIS tools can be used by individual facilities to showcase the benefits of potential wildlife projects on the local ecosystems and how they interconnect with the resources within and adjacent to a site. If other projects occur on site (such as remediation efforts or building expansion), GIS maps will assist in incorporating consideration of WHC projects into planning of these efforts.

How to Integrate GIS

For non-GIS experts, Google Earth and LandScope can be helpful visualization tools. For example, WHC members can locate their site, print off an aerial image, and hand-mark areas depicting WHC projects, locations for potential future projects, vegetation monitoring locations, nest boxes, wildlife observations, etc. With a bit more technical effort, smart-phone global positioning system app’s can export way-points that can then be shown in Google Earth. While hand-marked maps can be useful, they should be utilized only for internal purposes. If maps will be included in formal documents, it may be easiest for a manager to seek out professional assistance to create formal maps with ESRI ArcMap software.

Always remember that maps and data that include specific site information will be significantly more helpful and accurate than those containing regional information. Habitats vary significantly across regions, and it is essential to have a thorough understanding of the ecological resources located on site in order to properly manage them.

The Christmas Bird Count Tradition and How It Can Work for Your WHC Program

By Kristen LeForce|October 26, 2015

The Christmas Bird Count is a long-standing tradition that has been observed by birders since Christmas Day in 1900. From December 14th through January 5th, tens of thousands of volunteers collect data to help conservationists study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

DTE Energy HE NewsletterFor more than 40 years, DTE Energy’s Monroe Power Plant, located in Monroe, Michigan, has participated in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Employees, retirees, and local birders come together, armed with their binoculars, to share their love of birds and brave the frigid December weather that Michiganders know too well. The power plant’s 800-acre wildlife habitat provides an ideal location for the count, since it consists of ample food, shelter and space for a variety of birds in the property’s restored prairies, wetlands and Lake Erie shoreline. The Christmas Bird Count has become a form of monitoring for the wildlife program, with more than 40 species being counted on the plant property since 1992, including the resident Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons.

The Christmas Bird Count is an event that can wear many hats. It can help bolster formal monitoring for WHC certification programs, not only for birds but other wildlife as well, and it can be shaped to provide an educational component for non-birders or students of any age. Community partnerships can be created with local birding groups who not only help employees to count the birds, but provide valuable tips and tricks for identification, better birding practices, photography, and the use of birding equipment (spotting scopes, binoculars, cameras, etc.). Partnering with local birders, scout troops, or schools can strengthen your program and create greater employee engagement. However, keep in mind the scale of the event! If you invite too many people, you may not see any birds.

What makes the Christmas Bird Count at the Monroe Power Plant so special is that participation arose simply out of the interest of the employees, not out of an obligation for documentation or a need to reach a certain number of educational hours for certification. The trick to recreating this is to identify the passions your co-workers hold, whether it is for birds or something else, and make a commitment to sustain that passion for years to come. Once you know what employees care about, you can harness that curiosity and excitement to help sustain and expand your certification program.

This Halloween, Embrace the Creepy-Crawlies!

By Katie Basiotis, Conservation Specialist|October 21, 2015

Part 1: Millipedes and Centipedes

Contrary to what their names imply, centipedes and millipedes do not have 100 or 1,000 feet. Millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment, while centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment. These distantly-related groups are widespread and abundant. They are found on all continents except Antarctica, and as far north as the Arctic Circle. Both centipedes and millipedes consist of thousands of species, and there can be numerous individuals present in one area, particularly in moist forests.

Most millipedes have rounded bodies and a dark brown exoskeleton. They burrow into the soil in damp places, like under leaf litter or stones, where they eat dead plant material. In general, they pose no danger to humans, although they can secrete a substance that is irritating to the skin. When disturbed, they will curl up in a spiral to protect themselves.

Similar to millipedes, centipedes live in moist environments such as under leaf litter, stones, or decaying woody debris. Unlike millipedes, centipedes have flattened bodies and poisonous claws that they use to attack their invertebrate prey. Fortunately for us, the claws of most centipedes are not strong enough to pierce the outer layer of human skin. Some larger species can bite, however, so picking one up is not recommended.

While wormlike animals with lots of crawly legs that come out at night and carry toxic or irritating substances might sound like a good basis for a horror movie, millipedes and centipedes are essential parts of nature. Millipedes break dead plant material down to sizes that bacteria and fungi can digest, ensuring nutrient cycling in the ecosystem. They also serve as an important food source for many insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, as well as centipedes! Centipedes serve as nature’s pest control, keeping populations of insects and other arthropods in check.

So the next time you happen upon a centipede or millipede while walking through your habitat, give a jaunty wave and thank them for all they do for the ecosystem.

Setting a New Standard: Every Act of Conservation Matters

By Margaret O’Gorman, President|October 15, 2015

It starts with the act. The act can be simple – a scattering of seeds on fertile ground to create a native plant garden. The act can be complex – grading land to reach the water table to create vernal pools. The act can be affordable – a packet of seeds is pretty cheap. It can be expensive – earth-moving equipment and technical expertise come at a cost.

Without the act, nothing changes. Policies, regulations, goals, objectives and philosophies remain words on pages, budgets on spreadsheets, and statements in reports. The act is all that matters.

An act of conservation that I am currently obsessed with is a stream daylighting project a few blocks from my home in Washington, D.C. My husband and I came upon it by lucky accident one afternoon returning from a hike in nearby Rock Creek Park. Where there was unproductive mowed landscape, there now flowed an open stream through step-down pools lined with wetland vegetation and air humming with dragonflies and goldfinches. From low biodiversity value and poor ecosystem functioning, the District Department of the Environment had acted and restored not just a habitat but an entire ecosystem. Mark Twain may have commented that they’re not making any more land, but in this small corner of a densely-populated urban area, they are making more nature.

When Wildlife Habitat Council embarked on the design of a new standard for corporate conservation, we knew we wanted it to be accessible, credible and ultimately drive change. In my first blog post about the new standard, these three design principles were introduced and discussed.

As we moved through the process, deciding how to recognize conservation on corporate landholdings, we returned again and again to the question of what we wanted to recognize. We easily answered “Why?” – to drive change and increase the number of corporations engaged in quality conservation activities. We quickly answered “Who?” – corporate landholders of all types and sizes. But, we really dug into “What?” – what do we value as an organization, and how can we create a standard to recognize it?

We ultimately agreed that we value the act of conservation. Yes, we care deeply about the outcome, but it is in the act that we see the benefit both directly and indirectly. It is through the act that we make a difference to planet and people.

In “Our Once and Future World,” author Paddy Woodworth is overjoyed when he discovers that the natural world is more resilient than he had previously thought; that ecosystems can be restored to full functionality, and that there is a movement across the globe to restore nature. The author sets out to explore restoration projects of different shapes and sizes in different communities and cultures for a diverse set of reasons with a diverse suite of outcomes. In each one, he sees the need, the challenges and the difficulties, but he also sees the results. He recognizes the power of these projects not just to restore nature, but also to restore our relationship with it.

An emerging practice called Civic Ecology also seeks to restore nature and our relationship with it. Civic Ecology envisions a future where people are no longer divorced from nature or separate from each other. It sees restoration of green spaces from broken places as essential to our future and recognizes the movement-building potential that the act of conservation creates. Civic Ecology is thousands of individual acts of conservation connected into, and beyond, communities.

From an individual’s attachment to a stream restoration through an author’s journey across the world of habitat and ecological restoration and into communities where groups and individuals are coming together to engage in hands-on restoration and ongoing stewardship, we can see clearly the power of the act of conservation.

As we prepare to launch our new standard and recognition program, Conservation Certification, we know that the act of conservation matters to the thousands of individuals working on WHC projects across the world. We see many of them at our annual conference every November, and hear from them how each act has made a difference. We also know how the acts of conservation, aggregated into metrics, matter to the sustainability, CSR, community outreach and EHS professionals in the companies we work with.

Every act of conservation matters. It’s our mantra and our call to action. Through it we pay homage to the thousands of acts of conservation we have recognized since our inception, while looking to the future, where ecological restoration, civic ecology practice and a myriad of other approaches to improving nature and our relationship with it flourish in broken places, wilderness areas and everywhere in between.

Setting the New Standard: Driving Change through Conservation Certification

By Margaret O’Gorman, President|September 8, 2015

This is the eighth in a series of monthly blog posts exploring the development of a new standard in corporate conservation certification.

Regulation is often blamed for creating a “race to the bottom” where fulfilling mandates becomes the only achievement. Recognition programs present an opportunity to turn the race around by using regulation as a floor, creating competition and providing incentives for participants to excel. Good recognition programs drive change.

Since we awarded our first certification 26 years ago, Wildlife Habitat Council has used regulation as its floor. To be recognized, a project has to exceed any pertinent regulatory requirement. This criterion allowed WHC to create a consistent approach from which to operate across multiple regulatory environments and impel participants to exceed expectations.

By creating this framework for implementation and recognition, WHC has driven change across corporate lands since 1989, today counting 827 certified conservation and education programs as evidence of these efforts.

As we prepare to launch our new Conservation Certification program, WHC is seeking to accelerate the pace at which we drive change in two ways. We are valuing conservation actions that have not been part of our standard before, and we are configuring our assessment of projects to allow for consistency in data collection and better reporting.

When we explain how WHC Conservation Certification can drive change through better reporting, we refer to the philosophical question about the unheard tree falling in the woods. With our new program, WHC will not only be able hear the tree falling, we will be able to ascertain the species of the tree, the time and date of the incident, and the extent of the habitat impacted as a result. (Metaphorically of course, as we prefer to see trees growing, not falling.)

To create this standard, WHC broke into units the very thing we value as an integrated whole to create manageable-sized projects for assessment and reporting.

With this new structure, we will be able to join the dots of current and future certifications by requiring applicants to submit through a consistent framework that collects data across 25 possible project units, reporting the acts, the objectives, the people, and the purpose of the project.

In future reports, WHC will be able to count and report on the types of conservation projects within each certified program and enumerate the habitats being improved, the species being managed, and the education and outreach being offered. Applicants will contribute data on their conservation objectives, their actions to meet these objectives, the numbers associated with the projects – acres, hours, people, practices – as well as the alignments with existing conservation plans, connectivity with neighboring projects, and contribution to landscape-level efforts..

What will truly drive change will be WHC’s ability to report these measures company-wide and industry-wide, to help Sustainability Officers, CSR managers and others to use the information for their own internal and external initiatives. WHC will also report across industry sectors to inspire others in that sector to participate and encourage friendly competition between those already on board. With these data reports, WHC will cause an upward shift in standards of land management on corporate lands away from a regulated floor and towards excellence and measurable conservation results.

By valuing conservation actions that have not been part of its standard before, WHC will drive change by recognizing these acts and requiring them to be carried out according to best practices.

One of the new areas of recognition is land preservation. Setting land aside in perpetuity is one of the most effective methods for addressing some of the issues that impact our environment. Land preservation can reconnect landscapes, save critical habitats and species, and provide access for recreation in nature. With Conservation Certification, WHC will recognize actions taken to set land aside permanently or to enter into agreements that allow the land to be used for conservation activities. We will value strategic approaches over opportunistic efforts and look for investments for future stewardship needs.

Another new area of recognition where WHC can drive change is in the practice of green infrastructure. Rain gardens, bioswales, and vegetated roofs and walls all provide high quality environmental mitigation services. With Conservation Certification, WHC will recognize efforts that go beyond the basic service and design biodiversity into engineered solutions. If a rain garden is planted for pollinators as well as to manage stormwater run-off, and a roof is planted for wildlife as well as for heat mitigation, it will be recognized. Through this recognition, designers and engineers can begin to consider how green infrastructure can contribute to biodiversity, especially in urban areas.

When we launch Conservation Certification in November at the Conservation Conference, we will once again drive change in corporate land management through broadened recognition and data-driven reporting.