Humans are constantly changing the planet, often altering precious landscapes and putting ourselves into conflict with other species. Our neighborhoods were wild not long ago, and we now share our properties with the fauna found here. In some places, human-wildlife conflict is obvious, like a predator that might cause livestock losses. In the Lehigh Valley, the conflict looks a bit different, like waterfowl droppings on lawns, the extermination of a bat roost, or raccoons getting into trash.
I moved to the Lehigh Valley after working with wildlife in Maine, New York City, Mexico, and elsewhere. I have been a member of the Allentown Environmental Advisory Council since mid-2016. I work for the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN), a non-profit that uses certification as a tool to incentivize best practices for wildlife, communities, and ecosystems around the world. WFEN was founded on the belief that social enterprise could be a tool to create incentives for conservation of fragile landscapes and species.
We offer Wildlife Friendly® certification for products that exemplify the compatibility between enterprise, species conservation, and livelihoods, including spices, essential oils, handmade paper, wool, handicrafts, and artisanal foods. We recently certified the world’s first Wildlife Friendly™ and Jaguar Friendly™ Coffee, Elephant Friendly™ Tea (a partnership with the University of Montana Broader Impacts Group), and we are continuing to grow our programs to protect Jaguars, Sea Turtles, Mountain Gorillas, and other iconic species. Our network is growing and now supports 270,000+ livelihoods 13+ million hectares of habitat.
Consumers are drawn to companies making positive impacts on ecosystems and communities. This is an evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility that has largely been limited to energy and waste reduction, fiscal donations, or volunteer days. We know companies can do better, and we work directly with companies like Aveda, the Kering Group, Stella McCartney, resort developers, and others to create Wildlife Friendly® supply chains.
What can you do to protect key species, from the humble Honeybee to Pennsylvania’s endangered Bog Turtle, from Wolves of Yellowstone to Tigers of Nepal? We recommend asking these questions of your business practices:
- Am I addressing any negative impacts I may have on wildlife?
- Do your planned development projects protect important wildlife habitats?
- Are you taking steps to protect wildlife on existing properties? For example, does the reflective glass on your building result in bird deaths? Are you frequently calling exterminators to get rid of wildlife from your home or business? If so, there are easy solutions to these problems.
- Am I making a positive impact in the Lehigh Valley? Examples include:
- Planting native plants for pollinators, putting up bat boxes, installing a pond, reducing pesticide and fertilizer use, and providing incentives for employees to protect wildlife at home.• Educating others never to litter or pollute and to reduce their single-use plastic footprint.
- Never feeding wildlife
- The only exception is for bird feeders, so long as the feeders do not attract bears who easily habituate to humans and associated food sources. We all know ‘a fed bear is a dead bear’ due to conflict with humans often caused by attractants like animal feed, garbage, or bird seed.
- Bird feeders should be appropriately cleaned and situated, with the right amount and type of seed.
- Taking measures to prevent the spread of harmful invasive species like the Spotted Lanternfly.
- Supporting local and sustainable farmers, frequenting environmentally-conscious businesses, and supporting sustainable planning.
- Asking farmers if they use Wildlife Friendly® and Predator Friendly® practices and requesting these types of products from farmers and retailers.
- Being a Citizen Scientist by monitoring wildlife at your office or in your backyard on apps like iNaturalist.
- Am I supporting conservation elsewhere in the world?
- Everything from our sunscreens, straws, bags, foods, and vacations has an impact on wildlife. We all love seeing animals in the wild or at the zoo, but how many of us truly act as champions for wildlife on a day-to-day basis? Purchasing Wildlife Friendly™ products is one way to do so. You can also avoid companies and goods which threaten wildlife.
Many companies have seen the benefits of integrating conservation with business strategy, but there is always room for growth. Any business in the Lehigh Valley, including developers, realtors, restaurants, manufacturers, landscapers, farms, and others can stand to gain from this perspective. I have seen Wildlife Friendly® practices revitalize markets, change lives, and beautify landscapes across the planet. I am sure that the Lehigh Valley can see the same success as it creates a new vision for its future.
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For more information, contact Marissa at firstname.lastname@example.org