“Homegrown national park”! What an interesting phrase. But what does author Doug Tallamy mean by it in his new book, "Nature’s Best Hope"? The book is a message for every land owner, renter, property manager, container gardener, government planner and administrator: You have a vital role to play in the survival of biodiversity on this planet! If we follow Tallamy’s recommendations, each of us can contribute to the creation of a new national park — far larger than any other — by dedicating our own yards and landscapes to the effort.

Over the last century or so, while we have done a pretty good job of setting aside some pieces of land as parks and protected areas, we have fragmented and spoiled the areas outside of them so radically that their webs of life cannot function as they must. Tallamy, a University of Delaware entomology professor, proposes that we work to save those battered webs by creating and maintaining our own native plant and pollinator sanctuaries wherever we live and work. Those small sanctuaries added together could give us a new, continent-wide "homegrown national park.”

This is the third of Tallamy’s books tied together by theme. The subtitles of each are noteworthy: "Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife In Our Gardens"; "The Living Landscape: Designing For Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden" (co-written with nature photographer Rick Darke); and "Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard."

"Bringing Nature Home" establishes the key point that undergirds all three books: Native plants are the key component in all healthy land-based ecosystems. Those plants feed the native insects that make everything else work. "The Living Landscape" celebrates the structure, beauty and function of native plants that you can find by redesigning your yard to host them. And the newest book, "Nature’s Best Hope," builds upon the foundation of the other books to detail why and how anyone with a love of nature can help protect our natural world’s biodiversity in a homegrown national park initiative.

One way to begin this effort is to shrink our lawns. Lawns fragment natural landscapes across America because they offer little or nothing of value to the bees, birds, frogs and other creatures of the natural surroundings — and yet, as Tallamy points out, “In the United States, lawn irrigation consumes an average of eight billion gallons of water daily,” and “Forty percent of the chemicals used by the lawn-care industry are banned in other countries because they are carcinogenic.” Those chemicals often flow into our public water systems. The work we do to cultivate our lawns could be much better spent planting native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. He recommends a reasonable target for interested homeowners: a 50% reduction of lawn area in your yard.

Tallamy uses the decline of box turtles as one of many illustrations of the much larger problem of habitat fragmentation. Box turtles were once abundant in NJ, but large lawns and fractured landscapes are their enemy. If you have seen a box turtle in your yard recently, it’s almost certainly because you and your neighbors have enough natural plant cover to give them the food and protection they need. Keep up the good landscaping! Box turtles’ needs are shared by countless other species: chickadees, woodpeckers, toads, butterflies, bees and countless other creatures.

A related problem Tallamy details is created by introduced invasive plants that are generally useless to native insects and other creatures and smother or crowd out the native plants they need.

All three books — "Bringing Nature Home," "The Living Landscape" and "Nature’s Best Hope" — are illustrated with helpful diagrams and beautiful and inspirational photographs. For information on ordering and more about Doug Tallamy’s work and lecture-tour schedule, see his website at bringingnaturehome.net. You may find "Bringing Nature Home" and his other books available at the Galloway Township branch of the Atlantic County Library System. More information on the subject can be found online at the Native Plant Society of New Jersey at www.npsnj.org. Click on “Southeast Chapter” to learn about meetings of the local chapter). As always, you can also contact the Go Green Galloway team at our email address, gogreengalloway12@gmail.com, for more information, current meeting schedule and venue.

Go Green Galloway is a volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint of Galloway through the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation, environmental education and the implementation of sustainable practices. We always welcome new volunteer members. Contact us at gogreengalloway12@gmail.com or call Mary at 609-742-7076. Also be sure to like our Facebook page.

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