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Certified Wildlife Landscaping Professional program launches

January 14, 2014 -  By

The National Wildlife Federation aims to certify 300 Green Industry pros by the end of the year.

National Wildlife Federation (NWF) launched its Certified Wildlife Landscaping Professional (CWLP) designation late last year as an offshoot of its Certified Wildlife Habitat, Schoolyard Habitat and Community Wildlife Habitat programs. The new program certifies landscape professionals who commit to supporting ecologically sound and wildlife-friendly methods of landscaping.

“We wanted to bring together our expertise and couple that with the landscaping professionals’ skills and expertise to combine for a true certification program for them where they participate in a training program,” said Eliza Russell, NWF’s director of education. The impetus for the program was two-fold, she said: 1) Demand from its existing habitat program participants looking for expert help, and 2) Demand from landscape professionals asking for guidance on and recognition for setting their businesses apart from an environmental standpoint.

About 25 landscape professionals were certified as CWLPs in 2013. Some of them worked with NWF to test the program during its eight-month-long development phase. NWF hopes to grow the number of certifications to 300 by the end of 2014.

Ben Bowen, landscape manager for Ross NW Watergardens in Portland, Ore., is one of those pilot participants.

“One of the things I like about the program is it’s very focused,” he said. “It’s not something that takes a huge investment of time or money to get involved in, but has some real benefits.”

The advantage Bowen names is the credibility gained by being associated with NWF and the ability to promote the certification on its website and via social media.

“I’m here in Portland, Ore., where this sort of thing is very important,” he said. “I realize in some parts of the country, the (environmental) emphasis isn’t there yet, but everywhere people are becoming so much more aware of the impact we have on the world around us. There’s a little investment with time and money with this program, but I think it’s one that would pay off for a lot of companies.”

Getting certified

To become certified, landscape professionals complete 18 to 20 hours of online, self-paced training about wildlife habitat elements, native plants and more. The process also includes submitting documentation (plant lists, design, etc.) that emphasize how the company’s approach “improves the larger ecosystem, benefits wildlife and enhances their client’s experience with nature,” according to the NWF’s website. The training culminates in a test with an essay. The first year certification fee is $150 and it’s $200 to renew in subsequent years.

NWF worked with the Ecological Landscaping Association, the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Association of Professional Landscape Designers to develop its certification requirements.

Once professionals are certified, they’re entitled to use marketing materials provided by NWF, such as web and print badges, a listing and profile page on NWF’s website and access to more training.

Bowen noted his website received some traffic from the NWF site listing, but he hasn’t yet landed a job directly from there. “We’ve had the badge on our website for a few months and had people who’ve commented on it,” he said. “It’s caught their eye.”

Though any landscape professionals may apply to participate, the “sweet spot” for the program right now is landscape designers and installers, Russell said, noting the training reflects that focus. “We do know there are probably going to be more tweaks,” she said. “And we need to learn more about the lawn care side of the industry.”

Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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