A project of this nature can be a great focus for service clubs, women's institutes, naturalist or youth groups, or the families on your block. If you belong to an organization, talk to your fellow members. Explain why it's important to help wildlife in your area and ask if they're willing to tackle a community project. If you don't already belong to a group, why not organize one? Talk to like-minded friends and neighbours, place an ad in your local newspaper, or put a notice up at the library.
1. Choose Your Project
To choose a community project for wildlife, investigate the vast selection of projects on this website. Get your group together for a brainstorming session. Alternatively, take a drive or a walk around your community. It is likely that a project idea will pop out at you. For instance, is there an abandoned lot, roadside ditch, or ravine that could be enhanced? Determine what changes, if any, would improve the site for wildlife..
If you are still having trouble choosing a project on your own, talk to wildlife biologists at your provincial or territorial wildlife department. Ask for suggestions on a community project that will benefit local wildlife.
2. Seek Advice Before You Start
Before you undertake a plan to help species or habitats in trouble, consult with the experts. Even though we mean well, we can sometimes cause terrible problems for wildlife, simply because we don’t know any better. It is important to get advice from the proper authorities. Start by contacting your federal, provincial, or territorial government wildlife office.
3. Establish a Network
You’ll need to rely on others for information and advice to help you execute your community project.
- Speak with wildlife biologists, naturalists, municipal employees (such as an area bylaws officer), conservation officers, plant nursery employees, lawyers, veterinarians, and anyone else you can think of.
- Compile a list of contacts. Start by asking who in your group knows whom - you may be surprised.
- Ask group members to clip wildlife or environmental articles from local newspapers. These may contain pertinent names of organizations and individuals.
- Find out if there are environmental or naturalist groups in your municipality. Contact your town hall or chamber of commerce for a list of such groups. Members of these organizations are often knowledgeable about wildlife and the environment, and will have useful contacts to share with you.
4. Make Use of Government Departments
Sooner or later, you’ll need to request some information from a government department. Governments are large, complex, and constantly restructuring, so don’t feel silly if you have to make quite a few phone calls to locate the right department or person. The following tips may help:
- There are three levels of government: federal, provincial or territorial, and municipal. All three are listed separately in the blue pages of your telephone directory.
- If you can’t track down the information you're looking for, refer to the official Government of Canada website or call 1-800-O-CANADA (1-800-622-6232).
5. Develop a Community Action Plan
Refer to "Develop an Action Plan" for ideas on breaking your project into manageable steps. You’ll also need to do the following:
- Ask landowners or the appropriate authorities if they're agreeable to your project.
- After obtaining approval, prepare a detailed, written plan. Clearly state what groups will be involved, and how many people. Outline the what, where, when, and how of your project. State who is going to do what; and how wildlife and your community will benefit.
- Be sure to keep landowners or the proper authorities up to date on your progress.
6. Assess Your Project
Most provinces and territories have laws stating that an environmental assessment review must be done before structures like bridges, roads, and subdivisions can be built. These studies look at wetlands, soil, plants, and wildlife that could be harmed by land developments. In some cases, a project is cancelled if the review shows that a vulnerable species could be harmed.
Even well-meaning plans to help wildlife can upset the balance of an ecosystem. A new fish species added to a pond might gobble up species already living there, or a pretty wildflower transplanted to your garden could choke out other existing plants - as in the case of purple loosestrife, which ravages native vegetation. For these reasons, an environmental assessment review is a good idea before you begin your project. Here are some points you'll want to cover:
- Make a map of your project site.
- Research the history of the area.
- Explain the purpose of your project.
- List the people who will be involved in your project, such as team members, wildlife and plant biologists, and so on.
- List the species of vegetation growing on your project site. Are any of them rare or unusual for the area? Will the plants you’re planning to introduce fit in?
- List the species of animals living there. Is there anything unusual? If you happen to attract other species, will they disrupt the habitat?
- Is there any water on or near your site? What is the quality of the water? Are fish or aquatic insects present?
- How is the site currently used by humans? Do people walk there, ride bikes, or dump garbage?
- How will your plan improve the site for wildlife?
- Make recommendations that will minimize any disturbance your project could have. For instance, don't hold work sessions when birds are nesting, or if you're planning a stream cleanup, make sure it doesn't take place during spawning season.
- Hold a public presentation. Explain your plans to your community or town council. Keep a record of their suggestions or concerns.
7. Create a Committee
If there are a lot of people involved in your project, you'll need to set up a committee. Members with diverse backgrounds will contribute to the project's success.
8. Build Team Spirit
Don't underestimate the worth of a strong team! More can be accomplished by a group than by individuals. It helps enormously if all members feel they're making a real contribution. Working with a small team, or even with just a friend, will instill a sense of pride in your project and community.
9. Seek Sponsorship
Businesses like to be involved in community projects. Ask them if they're interested in supplying you with materials and equipment. In return, you can give them free publicity by acknowledging their contribution in a newsletter. You might also erect a sign at your project site saying, "This project was made possible with help from (name of sponsor)." Remember to send thank-you notes to your sponsors!
The following are some examples of businesses you could contact and materials they might supply:
- Nurseries: Trees, shrubs, and plants.
- Landscaping companies: Soil, plants, and rocks.
- Hardware stores: Shovels, rakes, and trowels.
- Co-ops: Seed for wildlife gardens.
- Drugstores: Plastic gloves and bags for collecting garbage.
- Lumber companies: Wood scraps for building bird feeders, nesting boxes, bat houses, and other shelters.
10. Invite Senior Citizens
A community project is a perfect opportunity to get help from senior citizens. Many seniors have spare time, are nature buffs, and love to get outside. Contact a local seniors' group or residence, outline your project, and ask for volunteers!
11. Remember Little Details
As you move your project through its stages, don’t forget small but important details.
- Write formal thank-you notes to anyone who helps along the way.
- Invite people who've helped to any special events connected with your project; for instance, a ceremonial sod turning, or the installation of the first nesting box in a municipal park.
- Keep sponsors up to date on your project's progress with a brief, typed fact sheet. Invite them to any special events.
- Keep the media informed of what you're up to. The publicity will help to educate your community about wildlife and motivate others to take action.
- Create photo opportunities with your project and invite the media.