by: Elizabeth Ussher Groff Doug Bridge, homeowner, and Ariana Scipioni, Audubon Urban Wildlife Specialist, stand in a former blackberry thicket and ivy patch in Bridge’s backyard – where he has now planted native trees and plants, and received a level of silver Backyard Habitat certification.

The cool and wet - yet undeniable - arrival of spring is inspiring Inner Southeast gardeners to get outside. For those who want to create a better backyard habitat for birds and wildlife, the Backyard Habitat Certification program is a fun spring project for gardeners and families alike.

At the March Woodstock Neighborhood Association meeting, Noah Jenkins, Education and Research Associate with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, informed thirty meeting attendees about the program.

'We are piloting this program in partnership with the Audubon Society of Portland and Columbia Land Trust,' Jenkins began. The Johnson Creek Watershed Council is already well-known for its wildlife restoration work; Audubon and the Columbia Land Trust began the Backyard Certification Program in 2009.

The groups' goal is to increase participation in the program by those who live in the Johnson Creek Watershed, which includes parts of the Sellwood-Westmoreland, Eastmoreland, Woodstock, and Brentwood-Darlington neighborhoods. Those outside of the Johnson Creek Watershed can still participate in it through Audubon. The program is designed to help homeowners on small urban lots of one acre or less.

'We are teaching neighbors to create good habitat. We have three levels of certification - sliver, gold and platinum,' explained Jenkins. Homeowners choose the level of certification they want to aim for.

To achieve silver certification a homeowner must remove all tier-one invasive weeds (Scot's Broom and English ivy are two of twelve that are designated tier-one), plant 5% of their available property with native plants (such as red flowering currant, salal, Columbia lily, among others), and select from a menu of options for stormwater management and wildlife stewardship.

'Either I or someone from Audubon can do a tour of your property. We do a one-hour walk through and look at issues and potential things that could be done,' remarked Jenkins.

Assistance is provided in drawing up the plan, and a packet of resources, discounts on books, soil, tools and plants are made available.

Once the backyard habitat project is completed at a certain level of restoration, an official Backyard Habitat Certification metal sign is given to the owner. The fee for assistance and materials is $25 at the site visit.

Doug and Kristl Bridge live in Eastmoreland, just above Ardenwald's Tideman-Johnson Park, and and have been working on Backyard Habitat silver certification since September of last year. On March 22nd they received their official certification from Audubon.

'We loved the guidance, advice, and encouragement that was provided during and after the site visit. After the visit we were sent a detailed report, with suggestions and goals for our yard. We also received an expanding file with a wealth of resources,' says Bridge.

As previously reported in THE BEE, the SMILE neighborhood association in Sellwood and Westmoreland has already attained Backyard Certification for the eastern portion of its grounds at its own building, SMILE Station, in Sellwood.

For more information contact Noah Jenkins by e-mail at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call Noah at the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, 503/652-7477.

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