Last summer, Tricia Knoll watched in awe as a pileated woodpecker mined insects from alder snags that she and co-owner Darrell Salk left in place on their Southwest Portland property. “That magnificent bird would not have been there had we not chosen to restore native habitat in our yard,” she says.
Since they bought their home in 2008, Tricia and Darrell have worked to reclaim their third-of-an-acre property from blackberries and other invasive weeds. Together, they’ve renovated the yard to welcome wildlife with a diverse mix of native plants and trees and to protect the year-round creek that runs along the back. It’s a labor of love that Tricia – the gardener-in-chief – has tackled with determination and passion. When she learned about the Backyard Habitat Certification Program for Portland property owners, she was eager to apply.
Managed by Columbia Land Trust and Audubon Society of Portland, the program helps private property owners restore native wildlife habitat in their yards by removing invasive weeds, landscaping with native plants, managing stormwater on site and providing the basic habitat requirements for wildlife such as water and shelter. Grants from Metro’s Nature in neighborhoods program have supported this direct approach to working with private landowners since 2008. Additional funding has come from the East and West Multnomah soil and water conservation districts and other organizations. This year, a new Metro Nature in Neighborhoods grant extends the program into East Multnomah County in partnership with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council. The City of Lake Oswego will provide funding to expand certification to their residents beginning in July 2011.
Program participation starts with a site visit to assess what has already been done to restore wildlife habitat and to identify next steps to continue improvements. Some property owners qualify for one of the three levels of certification – silver, gold or platinum – at the first site visit. Others get specific advice on how to reach certification by enhancing or modifying their yard to become wildlife friendly. Every participant receives a wealth of informational resources, along with ongoing technical assistance and discounts on plants and supplies. Once certified, property owners earn an official Backyard Habitat Certification sign, gift cards and other perks.
“I’m very proud to have my sign out front,” Tricia says about her gold Backyard Habitat Certification. “Neighbors stop and ask about it, and I enjoy telling them how they can do the same things in their yards.” She especially likes reaching out to others. In August 2010, she hosted an open house for her Ash Creek Neighborhood Association and Master Gardeners.
Crickets in Kenton
In North Portland’s Kenton neighborhood, John Goetze III and his wife Alison Sigler have transformed their yard with a diverse array of native plants and trees that have earned gold level Backyard Habitat Certification. In 2007, the couple began removing laurel and holly and digging out blackberries and ivy. A forester by profession, John replaced the invasive plants with a wide range of plants, including quaking aspen, salmonberry and native wildflowers. To manage stormwater, they disconnected their home’s downspouts and installed rain barrels. To welcome species that need cavities for breeding, they hung bird nest boxes and installed mason bee houses to boost the garden’s productivity.
John and Alison have enjoyed watching bird activity and variety increase, and John notes that birds “hang out” longer. Crickets also prospered this past summer, providing a nightly symphony of sound. “Our neighborhood is really quiet at night. But this summer, you’d hear the sound of chirping crickets as soon as you got near our house. It was really fun.”
Get your yard buzzing and humming
Spring is a great time to make changes to your yard so you can enjoy more wildlife year-round. Visit www.columbialandtrust.org or audubonportland.org to find out how you can get the support you need and earn Backyard Habitat Certification. A $25 initial site visit lasts approximately one hour.