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Wildlife Habitat Council Programs
Through this three-decade-long partnership, we transform land—closed landfills, 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.
At larger properties, we make a concerted effort to enhance the natural value of the land by providing habitat for wildlife and offering educational opportunities and natural beauty to the surrounding community.
These sites are more than just habitat. In addition to providing nature-based solutions through biodiversity initiatives, they serve as vital educational spaces that bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to life for the next generation of environmental stewards. These sites give team members an opportunity to 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 how 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.
Last year, WHC recognized our corporate commitment to biodiversity and conservation education by awarding us their 2021 Conservation Leadership Award.
In addition to WHC programs, we support the preservation of habitat for beneficial pollinators via the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Pollinator Protection Act (Highways BEE Act), a law to facilitate states’ efforts to use more pollinator-friendly highway landscaping practices. Today, WM has 63 programs dedicated to protecting pollinators throughout North America. This includes a program at Fairless Landfill, which is a WHC-certified hub for six community partners focused on pollinator protection. What began in 2013 with eight employees has grown to reach 2,093 employees, families, friends, students, teachers and community members. The program has retained certifications from the National Wildlife Federation, Monarch Watch, North American Butterfly Association and as a Pennsylvania State University pollinator garden. In addition, the program recently earned the 2021 Landscaped Project Award, Pollinator Project Award and Awareness and Engagement Award from WHC and was named the Pennsbury School District Business Partner of the Year.
Plainfield Township, Pennsylvania
Grand Central Landfill is home to 210 acres of grassland habitat, walking trails and an environmental education center that offers programs on conservation, renewable energy, recycling, wildlife management and more. When the pandemic displaced local Girl Scout troops from their regular meeting locations, Grand Central offered its Environmental Education Center as a meeting place. The surrounding area was a perfect space for Scouts and take on projects such as planting a pollinator garden. Local conservation experts also led socially distanced summer butterfly walks to help guests better understand the life cycle of monarch butterflies. Thanks to their efforts, the Grand Central Team earned the Environmental Partnership award from the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.
CWM Emelle Landfill is a notable example of how 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 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.
The Okeechobee Landfill is home to a 2,000-acre certified wildlife site where educational landfill tours, featuring visits to our pollinator garden, bat houses and barn owl boxes, promote awareness of wildlife habitats. Beyond the garden, the Okeechobee team partners with Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, a local nonprofit committed to the rescue, rehabilitation and return of recovered animals to their natural habitat. Last year, in one month’s time, 10 raccoons, eight opossums and four skunks were released and call Okeechobee home.
Morgan Hill, California
One could easily visit Kirby Canyon without realizing it was a landfill. Hidden in central California’s rolling hills, over 700 acres are set aside for landfill activities and 250 acres are habitat for the federally protected Bay checkerspot butterfly and several rare nectar plants. To encourage the re-establishment of the butterfly population, the team has worked with the Creekside Center for Earth Observation in the past to provide larvae to introduce to other sites. Hard work by the WM team keeps the grasslands and the butterfly protected against invasive species and non-native animals. WHC recognized the site’s conservation projects with a Gold Certification and their 2020 Grasslands Project Award.
Grassland bird populations and their habitat are in decline across much of the U.S. This makes Buffalo Ridge Landfill’s 4,460-acre short grass prairie a vital habitat for grassland birds like the lesser prairie chicken. Antelope, coyotes, the swift fox and the Massasauga rattlesnake also depend on grasslands as their primary habitat. Working to help protect various species, the site constructed brush and rock piles to provide cover for smaller animals and built perches as a refuge for grassland songbirds such as Colorado’s state bird, the lark bunting. The facility offers tours so residents can learn how we create habitats for Colorado’s native species.
Oakland County, Michigan
Many of our sites set up and run programs to support bat preservation, which opens 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, but they also 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, 250 individuals show up to trick or treat and learn about the importance of bats and other spooky nocturnal critters to our ecosystem.
The West Carleton Environmental Centre is in the Carp River watershed, whose slow-moving, fresh waters provide habitat for the painted turtle and native and migratory birds. A WHC-certified site since 2006, the facility installed sunning logs and basking structures to provide protection and comfort for the painted turtles, their offspring and other wildlife. Turtle crossing signs across the site remind humans to watch out for any turtles. West Carleton’s most recent conservation work earned WHC’s 2020 Reptiles & Amphibians Project Award.
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.
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 highly 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.