Environmental advocates and local government leaders gathered May 2 to unveil Delaware’s Legislative Hall as the first state capitol in America to become home to a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

The certification is part of a larger effort to slow and reverse the precipitous loss of Delaware’s native flora and fauna, including dozens of other recommendations from the Ecological Extinction Task Force.

Sen. Stephanie Hansen said she led efforts to obtain the certification because of state government’s responsibility to lead by example.

“We are calling on everyone to do their part to restore Delaware’s native species and habitats, and that has to begin with us,” said Hansen, who chaired the Extinction Task Force and sponsored Senate Bill 153, legislation creating a Delaware Native Species Commission. “We have already lost an enormous number of native plant and animal species, and nearly a third of our remaining species are at risk of becoming extinct or extirpated, and one of the greatest culprits is the loss of native plant species at the base of our food chain. The solution is achievable and affordable, but it’s urgent that we change course now.”

The National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program promotes land and habitat stewards who employ sustainable land management practices and provide local wildlife with food, water, cover and places to raise their young.

Native plant species in particular are profoundly important to wildlife restoration. Research from the University of Delaware’s Dr. Douglas Tallamy shows that 96 percent of terrestrial birds raise their young on insects, and 90 percent of moth and butterfly caterpillars eat particular native plants or groups of plants. That hyper-specialization means that adding or removing native plants has an enormous cascading effect on wildlife populations up the food chain.

Delawareans can search for native plant species through nwf.org/nativeplantfinder; or visit the Delaware Nature Society’s annual native plant sale, set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 5 and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 6 at Coverdale Farm Preserve, 543 Way Road, Greenville.