Stewards pass along a passion for wildlife

Posted: October 14, 2005

Derek Stedman was so distressed by the loss of natural lands that he and his wife, Amory, not only created a backyard habitat for wildlife at their Newtown Square home, but they also signed up as volunteer habitat stewards with the National Wildlife Federation.

That still wasn't enough. So Stedman qualified as one of the foundation's habitat-steward hosts, and he and Maureen Carbery of West Chester created the Habitat Resource Network of Southeast Pennsylvania.

Today, they will launch their first training program on the grounds of the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford for others who want to be stewards of the environment. Their students, mostly from Chester and Delaware Counties, will learn about the wildlife federation's habitat programs during three days of training. Then they will pledge to volunteer 50 hours over the next year helping to create more wildlife habitats.

"We hope stewards will go to other homeowners, places of worship, schools that want a wildlife habitat, or corporate offices that want to go green . . . any place where you can renew habitat areas for critters [and] try to make the environment sustainable," Stedman says.

Habitat stewards tackle hands-on work. Among their activities, says Emily Gibbs, volunteer coordinator for the wildlife federation in Reston, Va., are "removing invasive plants and putting in native plants, water features, bird feeders, or anything that wildlife needs to live in these areas and be healthy."

The federation offers a shorter, online-training program for habitat ambassadors, who go to garden centers "and talk to people as they are buying plants about what plants attract which creatures," Gibbs says.

For information about the Habitat Resource Network's classes, call 610-355-7736 or e-mail pahabitat@comcast.net. For information on federation volunteer programs, go to www.nwf.org/volunteer.

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From noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, "an Environmental Stewardship Festival" hosted by Willistown Friends Meeting will feature talks on creating and certifying backyard wildlife habitats and tips on attracting birds and creating meadows. The festival is free and open to the public; it will take place at 7069 Goshen Rd. (off Route 3, between Providence and Delchester Roads) in Willistown, Chester County. Information: www.willistownfriends.org, click on Calendar, then Special Events.

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