Project Highlight: National Wildlife Federation’s Sacred Grounds Program Engages Faith Communities

By February 20, 2019 February 25th, 2019 Blog

National Wildlife Federation’s Sacred Grounds Program engages faith communities in environmental stewardship in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The Sacred Grounds™ program creates a unique space for praise and celebration of nature’s wonders and empowers congregations of all faiths to connect to the Earth by gardening for wildlife and studying the teachings and texts of their faiths. As a result, people, the planet, and spiritual foundations flourish.

National Wildlife Federation

We are impacted by our natural resources and our natural resources are impacted by us. The key to improving the health of our waterways and our environment is to engage all residents in environmental stewardship. In recent years, the Chesapeake Bay Trust and many of our funding partners have worked to involve audiences in our grant programs that have typically been under-engaged in the past. In 2015, the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee identified three audiences that the Trust should focus on incorporating in our grant programs. These audiences include communities of color, faith-based communities, and the human health sector.

The Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program (a partnership between the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment and the Chesapeake Bay Trust), for example, has encouraged applicants to submit proposals that embrace diverse communities in environmental action projects. In 2017, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) received a grant award through this program to engage faith communities in Prince George’s County in environmental stewardship and clean water efforts. For this project, NWF partnered with Interfaith Power and Light and Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake to conduct their Sacred Grounds program in Prince George’s County.

NWF and their partners conducted three Sacred Grounds workshops with participants from 22 places of worship in Prince George’s County. The workshops educated residents about how faith doctrine of many denominations encourages environmental stewardship and local environmental issues, such as stormwater runoff and pollution. Community members also learned the benefits of creating wildlife habitat and implementing stormwater management practices on congregation grounds in order to address these issues.

NWF successfully recruited five congregations interested in achieving Sacred Grounds designation from the workshops. In order to be designated as a Sacred Ground, congregations must create wildlife habitat on their property, connect environmental stewardship to faith, and inspire community members to get involved with environmental action. In addition to achieving this designation, faith institutions in Prince George’s County are eligible to participate in the County’s Alternative Compliance Program. This program’s objective is to advance stormwater practices and increased citizen knowledge for cleaner, healthier congregations.

The inclusion of all residents in the ongoing effort to restore our natural resources and our communities impacts the success of this effort. Expanding the dialogue between diverse communities leads to new collaborations and identifies co-benefits of environmental and community projects.  All residents benefit from healthy natural resources, and, in turn, all residents have the opportunity to benefit natural resources.

Thank you to the National Wildlife Federation, Interfaith Power and Light, and Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, for all you do to engage the faith community in environmental stewardship!

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