On May 1, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Ecology Center, Evanstonians from across the community will celebrate and exchange ideas to make the community’s green spaces more welcoming for birds, bees, and butterflies.

 The Evanston effort is part of a national push for Pollinator-and bird-friendly gardens. The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, founded in 2014, is an unprecedented collaboration of federal agencies and national, regional, and local nonprofits and clubs aimed at restoring critical pollinator populations in support of the president’s Executive Strategy to “Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.” Other actions include federal highway and other agencies planting wildflowers, especially milkweed, which is a host plant for monarchs.

 Natural Habitat Evanston, a community effort of more than 150 residents, schools, places of worship, businesses, and nonprofits, is working closely with the City of Evanston to help residents enhance habitat, use sustainable gardening practices, update ordinances, and create habitat corridors along the lakefront, North Shore Channel, and other green pathways. It is also working to certify all of Evanston as a National Wildlife Federation community habitat. The May Day celebration is another step forward with the planting of
350 wildlife-friendly shrubs and understory trees in the Ladd Arboretum.

The plants were donated by National Wildlife Federation’s Trees for Wildlife program. Citizens’ Greener Evanston, Evanston North Shore Bird Club, and Evanston TreeKeepers are cooperating
in the effort.

To certify all of Evanston as a community habitat for pollinators and birds requires 200 homes, five schools, and six community spaces to be certified as National Wildlife Federation habitats. Each one counts toward the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. “It means introducing the entire community to the benefits of sustainable gardening with native species,” said Leslie Shad, local coordinator of Natural Habitat Evanston. “We are well on the way to achieving community certification, but we need more people to certify their yards, balconies, places of worship, businesses, and school yards.”

So far, gardens at about 75 homes, one school, and eight community spaces, including places of worship and community gardens, are certified habitats. More schools are in the works, including District 65 schools, Evanston Township High School, and Northwestern University.

 The May Day Celebration will include hands-on activities on how to cultivate habitats welcoming to birds and pollinators. Kicking off the event will be Suzanne Malec-McKenna, Executive Director of Chicago Wilderness, a regional alliance of more than 200 organizations that preserves, improves, and expands nature and quality of life in the region. Green Edens Landscaping and Evanston TreeKeepers will lead teams in planting the shrubs along the North Shore Channel. Seventy attendees will receive free shrubs to plant at home. Other plants will go to the Eggleston Orchard and ETHS.

More information about Natural Habitat Evanston is available online at naturalhabitatevanston.org or by email at Habitat@NaturalHabitatEvanston.org.