Doug Tallamy: Preserving biodiversity through homegrown national parks

Doug Tallamy is on a mission to convert individual home and property owners into biodiversity warriors, arguing that conservation needs to happen outside parks and preserves, and everyone can step up to help, whether with a flowerpot, lawn, garden, woodlot, ranch or farm.

By Doug Tallamy August 22, 2023

In my view, the only way to achieve E. O. Wilson’s dream of protecting the natural world on at least half of the planet, as described in his 2016 book “Half Earth,” is to coexist with nature, in the same place, at the same time. We must bury forever the notion that humans are here and nature is someplace else, for there are no longer enough “someplace else’s” to meet the need. We have persisted for the last century in the misguided belief that humans can only thrive when segregated from the natural world, and, as a result, the U.S. has formally protected only 12% of its land.

We can achieve Wilson’s lofty goals without excluding the human enterprise, but the key to doing this is to practice conservation not only in protected wildlands, but also outside of parks and preserves: where we live, work, farm and play. And by “we,” I don’t mean just a few ecologists and conservation biologists. I mean every one of us. Conservation is the responsibility of everyone on Earth because every one of us depends entirely on healthy ecosystems.

We’re off to a good start. Property owners throughout the country — and particularly the more than 29,000 individuals registered on Homegrown National Park’s interactive map to indicate the native plants they have added to their landscape—are shrinking lawns, planting trees, expanding native plant populations, protecting woodlots and removing invasives all over the U.S. One HNP campaign, “No Yard, No Problem,” introduced container gardening with keystone plants by ecoregion and inspired city dwellers to be part of the movement — our TikTok post received more than 4 million views.

I am grateful to everyone who has heard the urgency in Wilson’s voice. But we need more people to hear it, and we need them to hear it soon. Let’s convince 10 times more people to build their own part of Homegrown National Park — it’s fun, it’s rewarding, it’s vital and above all else, it works!

Humanity has entered a race, perhaps the most important race humans have ever been challenged to: a race against time, a race to curb our own destructive habits, a race to change our culture from one that exiles Mother Nature to the most uninhabitable places on Earth to one that welcomes Her into all human-dominated spaces.

As E. O. Wilson famously said, “Conservation is a discipline with a deadline.” The deadline is approaching, so please help spread his important message!

This article appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Saving Land. David Tallamy is a best-selling author and founded Homegrown National Park with Michelle Alfandari in 2020.

More in Habitat conservation