Virginia “Ginnie” Watson’s Conservation Story

Ginnie Watson, a current member of NLI and Wild Ones Rock River Valley Chapter, is the proof that you don’t need to own several acres in the country in order to create an environmentally friendly habitat within your yard.

Ginnie lives on a 0.4 acre lot in Rockford, and she has found ways to utilize every square foot of land to create a natural sanctuary for native plants and animals. Ginnie admits that she did not always use the conservative methods in her gardening that she practices today. She says she began making small changes in her gardening habits back in 1991, but it wasn’t until 2004, when she began planting native species, that her conservation efforts really took off.

Since then, Ginnie has removed all the grass in the wooded area in her backyard and has replaced it with native species such as fern and dogwood. She has also converted her front yard to prairie which features native plants like butterfly weed, milkweed, and prairie dropseed. She is careful not to use any pesticides in her yard, and she also does not use any downspouts. Instead, she uses rain chains to slow down water runoff, and the water is then absorbed by the multiple rain gardens she has installed on her property.

Ginnie admits that it has taken a lot of trial and error to create the native sanctuary she has today, but she says she feels it is her duty to create a healthy, natural ecosystem where birds, insects, and other animals can feel safe.

The health of our ecosystem depends on a balanced ratio of all of its parts. When we start reducing some necessary elements such as appropriate cover, food, or available water, we reduce the chances of the survival of the whole system as we know it,” Ginnie explained, “The losses started out small, but they are catching up with us. We are now witnessing what scientists are calling the 6th Great Extinction. It is no longer someone else’s problem. Each of us must step up, and the first step is right here at home.”

Ginnie says she hopes that displaying the [email protected] sign in her yard will help encourage others to take up environmental conservation in their own yards. “If enough of us convert our sterile lawns to native plant landscaping, we will create corridors of nature friendly habitat which will not only serve our resident populations of birds, insects, and animals, but will also provide for the many migratory species that need food and shelter on their difficult migration routesI am counting on this movement catching on and growing…because it has to. It is so important.”

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