Chula Vista tops in wildlife

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The city of Chula Vista has been named a top city for wildlife in the United States, according to a list released by the National Wildlife Federation on March 15.

The NWF’s Urban Wildlife Program awarded Chula Vista fifth place out of ten on the list, which was limited to the 100 biggest cities in the United States and took into account things like parkland space, urban wildlife program participation and citizen action.
Mayor Mary Casillas Salas said, in a news release announcing the distinction, that the city has residents to thank for the honor.

“We are thrilled,” Salas said. “We have more than 500 Chula Vista residents who have created certified wildlife habitats are providing beneficial habitat and conserving precious resources that demonstrate we can coexist with wildlife in urban Southern California.”

In total, the city has 541 certified wildlife habitats, which includes 11 schoolyard habitats.
Residents who decide to create their own habitats can do so with the help of a citywide program called “NatureScapes,” which is a step-by-step guide on how to turn your yard into a habitat for wildlife.

The guide can be found on the city of Chula Vista’s official website and includes tips on how to build healthy soil, plant and irrigate correctly, control pests and improve lawn care.
Coleen Wisniewski, Chula Vista’s environmental sustainability manager, said the recognition from the NWF rewards the work the city has done with the NatureScape program.

“It definitely supports some of the work we do,” she said. “We have been working with hundreds of residents over the last however many years and helping them achieve these nature scape habitats.”

One of the goals of the NatureScape program is water conservation — which could mean parting ways with having a natural lawn – but Wisniewski said you can still have a great space even without the seas of green.

“It doesn’t mean you have to just put artificial turf or rocks down,” she said. “You can have an engaging beautiful space that uses resources wisely but also allows for wildlife to come in and use that space.”

The cities above Chula Vista on the list were Austin, Texas – which took first place —  Atlanta, Georgia, Portland, Oregon and Indianapolis, Indiana.

In addition to the NatureScape program, the list highlighted Chula Vista’s City Operations Sustainability Plan, Vision 2020 Environmental Element and MSCP Subarea Plan as justification for the high marks.

Beth Pratt, NWF’s California regional executive director, said in the news release that it is especially important to be environmentally wise in the golden state.

“Our wildlife here faces immense challenges from having to navigate dense urbanization along with the impacts of climate change like increased fires and drought,” she said. “That is why it is so inspiring to see the residents of Chula Vista make clear commitments to protecting their native wildlife.”

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