Tweet! Our yard goes to the birds

By Dave Adamshick, Friends of Trees Communication Specialist

Want to transform your backyard into certified native habitat?

Friends of Trees Certified Backyard Habitat
Nice job, Susie! Susie Peterson spearheaded Friends of Trees’ backyard habitat certification.

Friends of Trees just completed the year-long process in Backyard Habitat Certification, which is offered by Portland Audubon Society and Columbia Land Trust. We’re excited to announce that we received platinum certification—the highest rating available! Friends of Trees employee Susie Peterson spearheaded the project after she certified her own backyard.

“There is great value in the process—having an expert help you identify invasive species, getting discounts with local nurseries that sell native plants, and taking action as individual stewards our local ecosystems,” she says.

Here’s what we learned about the process.

First, you have to apply at A habitat specialist will visit your home for an initial walk-through, help you identify invasive plants, and come up with a plan to reach your goals. There’s a $35 fee.

Friends of Trees' Birdhouse
Promoting the health and safety of wildlife is part of the certification.

Next, it’s time to get a little dirty and pull out what does not belong. Considering the Backyard Certification process began as a pilot program to remove pernicious ivy in Portland, removal of non-native plants is a great starting point.

Then you add native plants. Native bees, worms and insects coevolved with native plants and depend on them for food and habitat. The decimation of the insect population has ripple effects on the ecosystem. In our yard, volunteers planted Oregon White Oak and rose’s cousin the Pacific Ninebark. The Ninebark’s branch structure great habitat for small birds and insects, and it looks beautiful in the winter.

Another step: Promoting the health and safety of wildlife can help you achieve silver, gold, or platinum certification. This can be as simple as adding a birdbath or keeping a cat inside to make space for the hundreds of species of birds and bats who make their home in our area.

Friends of Trees ecoroof
Our ecoroof helps absorb stormwater to improve soil and water quality.

The certification work also involves pesticide reduction and storm water management. By designing a plan that allows yards to absorb rainwater instead of diverting it into the street sewers, both soil and water quality improve. Sometimes it is as simple as disconnecting downspouts. For platinum level certification, we added a water garden, deep-rooted native plants to help absorb water, and engineered two of our buildings with ecoroofs.

The hard work was worth the effort, as Friends of Trees is one of only four Portland Businesses to achieve the highest certification level.

“It’s important for all of us be stewards and work to improve the world we live in, be it our backyard or the city’s tree canopy,” says Scott Fogarty, our Executive Director. “Thanks to Susie, Columbia Land Trust, the Audubon Society, and all the volunteers who dug and planted!”

For more information about certifying your backyard, visit

Dave Adamshick is the communications specialist at Friends of Trees. You can reach him at [email protected]