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Through this longtime partnership, we transform land—primarily closed landfills, and smaller buffer zones at transfer stations, recycling facilities and other facilities—into certified wildlife habitat. WHC-certified programs vary in scope from individual species management to large-scale habitat restoration. All projects are included in WHC’s Conservation Registry, an interactive database that maps worldwide conservation projects. All acres are overseen by WM employees and community partners who dedicate their time and expertise to ongoing management and education.
These sites are more than just habitat. They also serve as vital educational spaces that bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to life to teach the next generation about good environmental stewardship. Through these sites, we teach the fundamentals of protecting habitat, natural ecosystems and biodiversity to neighbors who visit and spread the word about the importance of environmental responsibility. The programs also show visitors that landfills are safe, can be beautiful, and support their surrounding natural ecosystems.
Beyond wildlife habitat, many of WM’s closed landfills have been converted into hiking trails, sports fields, golf courses, renewable energy installations and more.
The Bronx and Brooklyn, New York
For nearly a decade, frontline employees have maintained pollinator gardens at our Harlem River Yard and Varick transfer stations. While these areas have long served as peaceful refuges for native wildlife and insect species, they were recently opened up to nearby communities. In fact, the Harlem River Yard garden was expanded to include a new pollinator garden by the facility’s main entrance on the South Bronx waterfront. This expansion was completed by WM employees with help from Alive Structures, a Brooklyn- based minority- and women-owned landscape design firm, and workers from the HOPE Program, an environmental and social justice-focused workforce development organization, who planted a variety of native perennials, shrubs and grasses.
Through the project, the previously underutilized area was transformed into a thriving garden adjacent to a popular community gathering area on the South Bronx waterfront. The team is also evaluating the feasibility of installing a community meeting center and green roof at the Varick facility. In the East Williamsburg Industrial Zone where Varick is located, no such gathering place currently exists, so this project would meet an important community need.
CWM Emelle Landfill is a great example of how WM employees and local entities work together to convert buffer property into wildlife area. At this site, Black Belt Prairie grasslands are home to white-tailed deer, Eastern wild turkey and feral hogs. The local team partners with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries and the Alabama Cooperative Deer Management Assistance Program to monitor and track for white-tailed deer. In addition, the site provides food and shelter for native mourning doves to help the population withstand migration and changing seasons.
San Jose, California
Guadalupe Landfill sits on a combination of oak woodland, grassland, chaparral and riparian areas where employees actively manage and protect 411 acres for conservation. The team has also created native landscaping using drought-tolerant, deer-resistant vegetation in three plots across 2,000 square feet, surveyed by an expert from Creekside Science. Along Guadalupe Creek, employees and volunteers serve as environmental stewards. The site’s native landscape area is also home to an international, award-winning bug hotel designed and built by employees, using materials found on site. In 2021, the site was nominated for a Landscaped Project Award at WHC’s annual conference.
Over 2,000 of the 4,100 acres at Okeechobee Landfill are managed for wildlife, consisting of restored marsh and forested wetland habitat. Improved habitat conditions encourage animals to settle in the area, living among tree piles that provide critical shelter they may not receive elsewhere. We also work with a local wildlife rehabilitation center to introduce keystone species like bald eagles. Like many WM WHC sites, Okeechobee Landfill provides enriching opportunities for students by sharing environmental conservation techniques with 4-H campers, and by offering a program that allows Scouts to earn Fish and Wildlife Management-related badges. Finally, site tours are conducted to educate community members about native vegetation, bat and bird boxes, and species reintroduction efforts. Educational programs like this site’s enrich communities and help neighbors understand the value of conservation efforts, motivating them to change their daily habits to protect the planet, too.
Oakland County, Michigan
Many of our sites set up and run programs to support bat preservation, which opens up a unique opportunity to teach community members about the importance of a creature they typically avoid. While they may be scary to some, bats are one of the best natural indicators of health in our environment. Not only do they serve as pollinators and seed dispersers, they control insect populations by eating flies, moths and other insects. By serving as population controls, bats help to protect plants, reducing the need for insecticides. To help students, families and friends understand bats’ role, we have sponsored the Leslie Nature Center’s attendance at the Orion Township Boo Bash for the past several years. At this event, nearly 250 individuals show up to trick or treat and learn about the importance of bats and other spooky nocturnal critters to our ecosystem.
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Habitat conservation at our Bucks County Complex received Gold Certification from WHC and dual honors in 2017, capturing the Pollinators Project Award and the Landscaping Project Award. Most recently, they received all three awards they were nominated for at the 2021 virtual conference, including the Awareness and Community Engagement Project Award, the Pollinator Project Award, and the Landscaped Project Award. Our Bucks County team actively manages 6,000 acres for wildlife habitat, including transforming a previously open field into a sustainable pollinator habitat for bees, cabbage moths, beetles and monarch butterflies. This multigenerational project brings employees, families, seniors, students and other members of the community together to learn how to manage and promote protection of pollinators’ species and habitats.
Santa Clara County, California
Corporate Wildlife Habitat of the Year 2013 winner, and nominated for the WHC’s 2017 Reptiles and Amphibians Project Award and Species of Concern Project Award, our Kirby Canyon Recycling and Disposal Facility devotes 600 acres solely to habitat enhancement projects and scientific study. Projects include developing a suitable wetlands habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog. The hard work and dedication committed to these projects resulted in a 2020 Grasslands Project Award and a Species of Concern Project Award from WHC.
Our Campground Natural Area, a retired facility managed in partnership with Michelin, garnered a WHC Grasslands Project Award nomination in 2017. Most recently, the team earned a Forest Project Award nomination for WHC’s 2021 virtual conference. Cub Scouts earn conservation patches here by participating in educational activities on the site’s pollinator, forest, grassland and wetland habitats.
We actively manage more than half of the City of Hamilton-Glanbrook Landfill site for wildlife habitat, including grasslands, wetlands, forests and riparian areas. Working with community partners, our teams have installed and monitored songbird and wood duck nest boxes and installed pollinator gardens designed to attract species like the monarch butterfly.
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
We worked with local community conservation groups to restore and maintain wildlife habitat at the Orchard Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility site. The site has a very successful bluebird and wood duck nest box program, including 28 bluebird boxes and 12 wood duck boxes. In just one nesting season, they had 17 bluebirds fledge, 34 hooded merganser hatchlings and 32 wood duck hatchlings.