Greener Acres: Non-Profits Sustaining Sustainability

May 3, 2019
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This regular feature introduces Montgomery County non-profit organizations that are making a difference with their work in sustainability spaces across a variety of industry sectors. Our first subject is the Silver Spring-based Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC).

Created in 1998, the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) is a non-profit, community-based, non-government organization (NGO) that promotes and certifies corporate land habitat conservation and management through partnerships and education.

With the WHC belief that every act of conservation matters – no matter how small – the organization’s president, Margaret O’Gorman, says WHC is recognized as a leading NGO because of its experience working at the intersection of business and conservation.

“We partner with corporations, their employees, fellow conservation organizations, government agencies and community members to empower and recognize wildlife habitat projects for conservation and education,” O’Gorman says. “WHC’s unique business model of collaboration with companies on practical approaches to science-based biodiversity actions has garnered positive conservation outcomes year after year.”

Value of Certification

Their trademarked certification program, the Conservation Certification, is the only voluntary sustainability standard designed for broad-based biodiversity enhancement and conservation education activities on land owned by corporations.

Over the past 31 years, more than 1,000 habitat enhancement and conservation education programs have been certified worldwide through the program. Today, there are over 600 WHC-certified programs in 48 U.S. states and 27 countries.

WHC Certified Projects in Our Backyard

Two of those WHC-certified programs are located here in Montgomery County: Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg and the Pepco WaterShed Center for Sustainability in Rockville.

First WHC-certified in 2009, Asbury Methodist Village, a continuing care retirement community with more than 1,400 residents, has 130 acres of wooded habitat and landscaped areas that include a 17-acre nature preserve with woodlands and ponds, four pollinator gardens, and houses for eastern bluebirds. The nature preserve is home to white-tailed deer, foxes, waterfowl and pollinators and is maintained by residents and other caretakers.

The Pepco WaterShed Center for Sustainability is an interactive exhibit that lets visitors experience a man-made wetland as well as a living classroom that features demonstrations of native-plant landscaping to help pollinator species, edible green walls and more.

How to Get Certified

Using guidance and resources, WHC helps companies with designing, planning, implementing and maintaining conservation and education projects. Once a program receives certification, WHC can also help publicize its achievements.

“[It] is more than just a certification. It is a continual process by which activities are maintained to offer ongoing benefits to biodiversity and people,” O’Gorman says. “Celebrating and empowering all acts of conservation is at the core of what we do, whether it’s a simple pollinator garden or a complex wetlands restoration.”

Any company or organization interested in obtaining WHC Conservation may apply, but O’Gorman says projects must at least be locally appropriate, exceed regulatory requirements, have or provide a conservation or conservation education objective and value, and have documented, measurable outcomes. Specifics on the process can be found on the WHC website.

Connect at the Conservation Conference

WHC’s biggest event of the year, their annual Conservation Conference, offers opportunities for learning, inspiration and networking for agencies interested in incorporating conservation projects at their facilities. Happening in Baltimore on November 13-14, the conference attracts corporate conservationists from all over the world.

“It’s also a celebration of the best corporate conservation from across the world,” O’Gorman says. “We welcome corporations with lands in Montgomery County to take advantage of the accessibility of the conference and join us in Baltimore.”

More information on the 2019 conference is available here.

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