By Liz Bronson
Service with the Montana Wildlife Federation on the Billings Community Wildlife Habitat Project is off to a great start. As the first AmeriCorps member with the Montana Wildlife Federation, working on a brand new project comes with its fair share of excitement and challenges. The journey began by registering Billings with the National Wildlife Federation. The next steps are accruing points in four categories: registration, outreach, education, and administration. Service throughout my term will revolve around completing tasks to earn points, encouraging individual properties to certify their gardens, and making connections to build a team that will carry the project forward at the end of my term.
Getting my bearings on what this project means and how to go about it has been the biggest challenge so far. Almost everything I do is created from scratch, and I often find myself completely mentally exhausted at the end of the day. Most people have never heard of the Garden for Wildlife program, so I spend a lot of time educating about that before I can even begin talking about the community project. On the other hand, when I have a chance to explain the project and the mutual benefits associated with certification, the responses have been overwhelmingly positive. And, as challenging as it can be to tackle a big project with limited time, it’s exciting to have a chance to make a lasting difference in the community.
Moving forward, I hope to hang onto this optimistic feeling. I anticipate roadblocks along the way during my term, and have to be prepared to overcome them efficiently. Not everybody will have the same warm reception to the project that I have experienced so far, so I’m preparing myself for that hurdle. Additionally, it’s very difficult for me to leave a project only partially completed. I want to be able to finish what I started, especially after already committing so much energy. Instead, I will have to trust the team I help assemble to maintain the momentum and see the project through.