Inviting nature home with the Backyard Habitat Certification Program
Washington County resident Susan Nolte started her garden nearly 30 years ago with a focus on creating an edible landscape. Through volunteering with Portland Audubon she learned about the impacts of habitat loss throughout our region. This led her to enroll her property in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program (BHCP), a collaboration between Columbia Land Trust and Portland Audubon, and begin the process of re-wilding her yard.
What is the BHCP?
The intent of the BHCP is simple: teach people how to garden with native plants and encourage them to create landscapes that are healthy for both people and urban wildlife.
The program focuses on five elements:
- Controlling noxious weeds
- Planting native species
- Reducing pesticide use
- Managing rainwater
- Providing wildlife habitat
There are three levels of backyard habitat certification for plantable areas on a given property:
- Silver – 5% is covered with native plants
- Gold – 15% is covered with native plants
- Platinum – 50% is covered with native plants
What happens when you enroll in BHCP?
- BHCP technician will conduct an initial site assessment. During this visit, they will look for noxious weeds, identify rainwater management opportunities, talk with you about your landscape goals, and make specific habitat suggestions.
- You’ll receive a full site report with recommendations for how to achieve your backyard habitat transformation.
- The program also offers discounts for purchasing native plants and other materials from participating businesses.
Advice from Susan:
Start small! “You don’t have to buy a bunch of plants or get rid of the whole lawn. Just start in one corner and go from there,” she advices. She also encourages enrollees to connect with the BHCP community. The Facebook group, Friends of Backyard Habitat is a great resource for getting started. She’s found that everyone there is willing to share their experience and offer advice. She’s even found people willing to share plants for those working on a small budget. Meeting like-minded people has been one of her favorite things about the program.
A backyard habitat is an opportunity for community education
Susan often invites neighborhood children into her yard to discover nature firsthand, and encourages them to overturn logs to discover the worms and bugs that live under them. She even maintains six compost bins that allow her to show the kids the process of turning organic waste into soil. In Susan’s own words she sees the BHCP as “one small link in the chain of change.”
BHCP has enrolled over 6,000 properties since 2007—and the program continues to expand!
- Multnomah, Clackamas, Clark, and Washington Counties were first to implement the program.
- Tualatin SWCD has worked with BHCP since 2016 to expand the program throughout Washington County, and now residents in Beaverton, Tualatin, Tigard, and areas of Wilsonville and Portland are participating.
- In 2020, residents of Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Cornelius, and Sherwood came into the program.
Learn more about the Backyard Habitat Certification Program
Add your name to the wait list, or sign up for their e-newsletter.