Program to revitalize urban yards ‘is for everybody’

Backyard Habitat Certification Program is now expanding to Clackamas County

The Backyard Habitat Certification Program helps people in the Portland area revitalize their yards. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — If you’ve been around Portland lately, you may have noticed signs that are part of a push to create urban natural habitats in local yards.

The mission of the Backyard Habitat Certification Program is to, “Plant Roots, Create a Habitat, Transform the World… One Yard at a Time,” according to its website.

The Backyard Habitat Certification Program helps people in the Portland area revitalize their yards. (Gaylen Beatty)

It started as a pilot program in Southwest Portland back in 2009 with the help of the Audubon Society of Portland and Columbia Land Trust.

Today, the program has helped create over 3,650 natural urban backyard habitats.

“We have about 4,000 yards that span about 6 cities,” program co-manager Nikkie West said. “That’s Portland, Milwaukie, West Linn, Lake Oswego, Gresham and Fairview and unincorporated areas in between. We are really lucky that there are these natural areas in our neighborhoods.”

Now the program is expanding to Clackamas County.

And you don’t need to be an experienced gardener to get involved. West and co-manager Susie Peterson say anyone interested in revitalizing their yard can work with the program to get the proper assessments, plans and materials in place.

Oak Grove resident Tricia McKackin told KOIN 6 News she decided to put some work into her family’s yard after living in the area for 13 years.

“What we’re doing has so many benefits,” she said. “It’s really exciting and a learning process. When I first started this, I didn’t know anything about plants, what was a native plant or not. It’s been a huge learning curve but it’s exciting to be a part of it.”

The Backyard Habitat Certification Program helps people in the Portland area revitalize their yards. (Gaylen Beatty)

The Backyard Habitat Certification Program helps residents learn about the “Five Elements of Backyard Habitat,” which include invasive weeds, native plants, pesticide reduction, stormwater management and wildlife stewardship.

Peterson says it’s a program that’s built for everyone, regardless of experience.

“Sometimes people think you need a lot of experience for gardening or your yard has to be in a certain state,” she said. “But really, it’s for everybody.”

Peterson added that the program isn’t necessarily aimed at getting every backyard certified, but that services are available for anyone looking to improve their garden.

Click here to learn about enrolling in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program.