Certified backyard wildlife habitat

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I got my yard inspected as backyard habitat as part of a program run by the Portland Audobon Society and Three Rivers Land Conservancy. I already knew it was working because in recent years we’ve been visited by a whole cocktail party of birds, insects (including dragonflies) and the occasional bat. But it was nice to receive the “Gold” certification anyway, because I got an all-important SIGN to put on my fence.

Fireweed (native), penstemon (native), and day lilies (not) under an Oregon white oak.

Black locust “Frisia” (“naturalized” in Oregon but not native)

Clockwise from bottom left: cultured variety of ninebark (a native), strawberry bush (similar to madrone, a native), hops on gate arbor, day lilies and Oregon white oak (native), low tech “rain garden” (read: glorified bucket surrounded by rocks and native rushes) and streamside lupin (native)

my certified backyard habitat sign

The sign

This sign was the answer to a bourgeois little quandary I’ve had: how to explain to the neighbors what I am doing (or not doing) with our “garden”? Without lecturing anyone, that is. Sometimes our yard is gorgeous, sometimes it’s messy, but at neither extreme does it look like a standard urban yard, even in liberal Portland where perfect manicured lawns are not expected. And I’m tired of the looks we get from passers by… sometimes jealous, sometimes confused. It’s easier to have a sign than to say I’m trying to create a low-maintenance, year-round outdoor room that brings the entertainment and solace of wildlife to me, without constant watering or pesticides, you #@#$#?* ! (Also, I am lazy, so pruning and weeding are going to come in occasional angry spasms if at all.)

There are several certification programs out there. The National Wildlife Federation’s certification program comes up first on a google search, but after starting an application I felt it was too easy. It was basically just a questionnaire, with lots of good ideas on it that definitely seem to be inspiring people around the country. But there is no confirmation visit to verify you actually did or understood the things that might increase your yard’s value as habitat. And there was little emphasis on using native plants as the basis for supporting an ecological web. The Audobon/Three Rivers program actually involved a site visit, and their criteria were fairly substantial.

Actually, I just missed Platinum level by, like, one, eensy, teensy, little percent. I needed a very large native tree to get to Platinum (I do have small, medium, and large). But there’d be no room, unless I take out my treasured black locust, and they’d have to pry that from my cold dead paws. 🙂

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