Backyard Conservation

Backyard Conservation

By working with MHLC, you can conserve your property through a conservation easement, a land donation, a bargain sale, or planned giving. Visit our Conserve Your Land page to learn more about how MHLC can help you protect your land in perpetuity.

While permanent protection is the best option for land conservation, there are small steps each of us can take to protect natural resources and special places in the Capital Region.

Use the list of resources and suggestions below to create wildlife habitat, combat climate change, contribute to scientific research, and more- all within your back yard!



Improve Your Local Habitat

By supporting local plants and animals, you can create important wildlife habitat.

  • Hang bird feeders for seed and nectar eaters to support birds living in suburban or urban landscapes where food can be scarce.
  • Create a water source for birds and pollinators by putting out a bird bath.
    • For pollinators, simply add some small rocks that come out of the water. On a hot summer day wasps and bees will land on the rock and drink from the bird bath.
  • Provide cover in your back yard by planting native trees and shrubs.
    • This not only provides your backyard with privacy from your neighbors, but also creates wildlife habitat for birds, pollinators and mammals. Creating a vegetative buffer to your back lawn also provides safe passage for animals, helping them to avoid roads, car collisions, and other dangers.
  • Plant native plants to provide native pollinators with food and also provide birds with the caterpillars needed to feed their young. 
  • The Department of Environmental Conservation offers a Landowner Incentive program which helps landowners protect habitat of at-risk species on private lands.
  • The Natural Resource Conservation Service offers a Wildlife Habitat Incentive program (WHIP) to develop fish and wildlife habitat on private lands.
  • For guidance on what native flowers to plant, see the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Fact Sheet.
  • You can also learn more from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Program.
  • To learn more about invasive species and their management, visit your local Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) branch.
  • Get the next generation involved! Learn basics of backyard conservation and share them with young nature-lovers as you educate and protect. Learn more at the Backyard Environmental Education page.


Combat Climate Change

Planting trees is an easy way to combat climate change. Through photosynthesis, trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas, and transfer it into food they need to grow, storing it within the tree itself and in the ground. This makes less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and helps to offset the effects of climate change.

In a recent New York Times article, a professor from Cornell University noted that a single acre of woodlot would offset the carbon emissions of 2.7 cars. Therefore, the more trees you plant, the more carbon you are removing from the atmosphere, reducing the impacts of climate change. You can read more at the New York Times’ website. Trees aren’t the only plants that sequester and store carbon; most plants help with carbon storage.

To learn more about how MHLC is addressing climate change through our conservation work, visit our Climate Change page.


Be a Citizen Scientist

There are many apps and tools which help you learn about your land and help the researchers who are studying our local landscapes!


Protect and Improve Water Quality

  • Planting trees next to streams is a great way to increase water quality. The Department of Environmental Conservation’s Trees for Tribs program may be available in your area and can provide free trees, shrubs, and guidance for streamside planting!
  • Your county’s Soil and Water Conservation District can often provide technical assistance for issues related to erosion and stream protection.
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension offers a New York Master Watershed Steward program which trains citizens to protect water sources in New York State.


Protect Forest Health

  • Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Forest Owner program provides technical assistance for forest management.
  • DEC Foresters can connect you to many programs offered through the Department of  Environmental Conservation for forest management.



Working landscapes are one of MHLC’s priority areas.

  • Your county’s Soil and Water Conservation District can often provide technical assistance and guidance for Best Management Practices for farming. 
  • USDA’s Farm Service Agency provides many technical programs to assist farmers.


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