Green signs are sprouting up around campus, proudly declaring that these grounds are now
officially a Certified Wildlife Habitat. SOU, and indeed Ashland, has always been plant and
animal friendly, so what distinguishes SOU as a Certified Wildlife Habitat (in addition to being a student
The accreditation comes from the National Wildlife Federation, a non-profit that is dedicated to
“uniting sportsmen and all outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts behind the common goal of
conservation.” Essentially serving as a real-life Lorax, speaking for the voiceless plants and wildlife. To become an official Wildlife Habitat, an area must do four services for wildlife: provide food, supply water, create cover, and give wildlife a place to raise their young.
SOU has done all these things, in part thanks to Mike Oxendine, the Landscape Services
Supervisor here on campus. Oxendine is humble about the work he had to do to become
accredited, saying “I wish I could say I did some great thing that was very prestigious, but it was
Roca Canyon Creek on campus is a great example of what makes a wildlife habitat. According
to Oxendine, “it provides fresh water year round for mammals, rodents, birds and pollinators.” If
you are like me and haven’t heard of Roca Canyon Creek, it is behind (south) of the Science
Hall and Hannon Library, a secluded piece of nature that exemplifies how the designation came about.
Roca Canyon Creek is just one example of a ‘wildlife’ area, but the rest of the campus also
meets the criteria. SOU has many walnut trees, Oregon grape trees, seeding clump grasses,
and many other plants that provide food for local wildlife. All of the trees and shrubbery serve as
cover for animals, and the landscape department works hard not to disturb animals or their
‘Wildlife’ is a very broad term, and Oxendine helped to clarify. Specifically, SOU provides these
services (food, water, and cover) to squirrels, rodents, birds, pollinators, insects, and mammals.
The Landscape Department has also begun a project to facilitate fungi growth on campus. Near
Cox Hall, there are several large logs that have been ‘planted’ that will “be perfect for polypore
fungi growth,” according to Oxendine. Depending on what type of fungi grow, they could
potentially be edible or even used for medicinal tinctures.
Oxendine credits the idea of becoming a Wildlife Habitat to his visit to the Oregon Plant Nursery
in Talent. He noticed that the nursery was a Wildlife Habitat, and that the owners were very
friendly and suggested that SOU apply. Habitats are not just limited to campuses or nurseries,
however, and the NWF encourages anywhere from an apartment balcony to a large farm to get
certified and work with nature.
Brooke Mueller, a spokesperson for the Center for Sustainability here on campus,
acknowledges that this is a positive step for SOU. She also pointed out that SOU is, in addition
to a Wildlife Habitat, a member of Tree Campus USA, which works to “establish and maintain
healthy forest communities.”
The status of Wildlife Habitat also acknowledges the fact that a large part of the SOU population
is, in fact, deer. However, the landscape department had a bit of a humorous take: “although we
don’t always appreciate the deer munching all of our plants, we accept that this is their home.”