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Sometimes, the best way to save an animal is to plant a flower. A new Chicago Zoological Society initiative—our five-year Communities and Nature Program—is providing tips and training so neighbors and Brookfield Zoo guests can protect imperiled local wildlife right in their own backyards.

Each year of the program, we’ll focus on different local animals whose populations are declining. In 2014, we’re starting with pollinators such as bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. These animals are essential to agriculture, and farmers already are seeing reduction in crop yields.
Click here for a list of pollinator-friendly plants
Thanks to partnerships throughout our region—including Brookfield Public Library, Riverside Public Library, Riverside Brookfield High School, and Lights On for Learning—and working with you, one backyard at a time, we want to establish a pollinator corridor extending from Brookfield all the way to St. Louis. We hope you’ll help. Just plant flowers, trees, and shrubs that attract native pollinators—your very own pollination station. Whether you plant a butterfly bush in your backyard or fill your rooftop with pollinator-friendly plants, every bit helps.

Our partners already have stepped up to help with our Communities and Nature Program. The Brookfield Beautification Commission and Riverside Brookfield High School, for example, helped us transform a vacant lot into Progress Park, a thriving, revitalized nature area that earned the 2012 Governor’s Hometown Award for Beautification and Sustainability.

The new park boasts a gorgeous butterfly garden that has attracted pollinators and provided them with a necessary food source; pavers etched with student-written poetry; Great Bear Wilderness-inspired benches; and a community art installation.

Working with Scout groups is part of the plan. In one example of how everyone can do their part, our new friends, the Mueller family, asked for our guidance as their son built a butterfly garden for his community to earn his Eagle Scout rank. He wanted help in interpreting the life cycle of a butterfly and the importance of his garden.

Over the next five years, the Communities and Nature Program will work to help conserve other imperiled native species. In 2015, we will focus on birds (particularly warblers); in 2016, bats; in 2017, reptiles; and in 2018, amphibians.