The Neighborhood Habitat Challenge is an annual contest organized by the Austin Parks and Recreation Department in conjunction with the National Wildlife Federation. The goal is to make Austin a more wildlife-friendly city. To date, Austin has more than 1,700 certified wildlife habitats in the city, according to the Wildlife Austin! website. Nationwide, there are more than 150,000 NWF certified habitats.

Here’s how you can make your little piece of Austin a part of it:

  1. Turn your yard into a wildlife-friendly habitat. There are four elements you need to transform your yard into a habitat: food, water, cover and places to raise young.  In addition, practice two sustainable gardening measures — such as maintaining a chemical-free lawn, planting native species and conserving water.
  2. Complete the Wildlife Habitat Certification form on the NWF website. You can also download and print the form. There is a $20 fee for certification, but pre-paid applications are available by sending an email to A limited number of applications are available.

The three neighborhoods with the most new certifications by Nov. 14 win recognition from the City of Austin, as well as prizes. Prizes for past years have included neighborhood picnics, tree giveaways and wildlife workshops.

For more information about the program, check out the challenge guidelines and FAQs. For more details about how to get involved, email Melissa Hawthorne.