By Claire Grisham
I am just wrapping up my second full week of being an Energy Corps member here in Missoula and I am beyond thrilled to be serving with the National Wildlife Federation!
Many members have moved from all over the United States and have the task of adjusting to a new place and a new job. I, on the other hand, have been in the garden city for the past four years and I am about to come up on my fifth winter! While I have not had the transition of moving to a new place, I am doing something very different from anything I’ve done before: working downtown, in an office, for a national, non-profit, organization.
My first week involved reading emails, setting up meetings and trying to get up to speed on what is going on. I am grateful that I had this time because it has been a wonderful period of learning about the programs I will be serving in.
The National Wildlife Federation is devoted to advocacy work for wildlife conservation around the United States. Habitat fragmentation is a huge threat to wildlife in America and the rest of the world. In short, pieces of wildlife habitat keep being converted into other land uses and eventually there is a checkerboard of habitats but not much connection between them.
The program I will mainly be working with at the National Wildlife Federation is the Gardening for Wildlife Initiative. By making our yards and gardens friendlier for wildlife i.e. providing food, water, cover, places to raise young, and promoting native vegetation, we can help to create corridors for wildlife. If you think that your garden already has these qualifications then you can certify your habitat through NWF!
The city of Missoula already has many certified wildlife habitats and is very close to achieving the status of the first city in Montana to be certified! Getting Missoula over the finish line will be one of my tasks for the year.
During my second week, I decided that in order to get familiar with what gardening for wildlife looks like I needed to take a tour around Missoula of some of the many certified wildlife habitats. Lucky for me, we’re currently in the midst of the most stunning season in Missoula!
I visited the Clark Fork School, the 8th street pocket park, the Parenting Place, the Montana Natural History Center, the City of Missoula, and the University of Montana native garden. These are all places that have consciously made the decision to forgo the green grass lawns and instead choose to plant native grasses, shrubs, flowers, and trees that are adapted to the Missoula climate and to the wildlife that they sustain.
At this moment in time I am feeling very lucky that I get to serve the community I love, in a field that I am passionate about, for autumn, winter, spring, and summer. Here’s to the next year!
Pictured: The 8th Street Pocket Park
Claire Grisham holds a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Conservation and a minor in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana. Prior to Energy Corps, Claire worked in the environmental education field with organizations like the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program and the Montana Natural History Center with the hopes of getting kids excited about nature! Claire joined Energy Corps in October 2017 and will serve in the City of Missoula at the National Wildlife Federation as a Sustainability and Habitat Educator. She is very excited to get involved with their wildlife habitat certification and ECO schools programs to help facilitate outreach to the Missoula community!