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Lane Audubon is excited to announce the pilot of our backyard habitat enhancement program: Habitat Haven!

Why are we doing this?

Habitat has been disappearing for decades. In the past 50 years, the United States has lost 3 billion birds. Our pollinators are down 40 percent. The UN says we are in a “biodiversity crisis,” with many contributing factors, including habitat loss and pesticides. As our landscape becomes more developed, urban and suburban yards play an increasingly important role in the survival of wild birds. But we can make a difference! By planting natives, taking care of our soil, reducing lawns, providing safe habitat, reducing pesticides, and removing invasive plants, we can create corridors of life for birds, wildlife, and the insects we need to pollinate food crops for humans that nourish birds as well!

To better understand this, keep in mind that insects evolved with native flowering plants. While some bees are generalists and will use many different flowers, many native bees prefer specific native flowering plants to collect pollen for their young. For example, mining bees prefer asters and willows. Squash bees will only use pollen from the cucurbitae (pumpkin) family. That makes it important to plant native flowering plants that best serve our native pollinators. European honeybees, on the other hand, exist in greater numbers than ever before and they compete with native bees for pollen and nectar. Another factor working against native bees is that they may only travel a short distance to find food, so they need flowers close by. Many of our crops are pollinated by native bees, and they need our help!

How are birds and insects connected?

Birds need insects to feed their young. Douglas Tallamy, in his book Nature’s Best Hope, states that it takes more than 10,000 caterpillars to support one nest of young chickadees! At least 96 percent of our birds feed insects, not seeds or berries, to their young. Caterpillars are best because of the high protein content. To get more caterpillars, we need to plant the trees, shrubs, and flowers that they need to survive.

This is where keystone species enter the picture. These are the most important species that support up to 75 percent of lepidoptera (butterflies). In our area, keystone species are native quercus garryana (oak), prunus (bitter cherry and chokecherry), and salix (Scouler’s willow). Others are bigleaf maple, vine maple, and both white and red alder. Many shrubs are also excellent choices, including red and blue elderberry, blueblossom, oceanspray, snowberry, and red osier dogwood. These are the plants that caterpillars require.

The LCAS Habitat Haven Program

Modeling our methods after other successful programs, our Habitat Haven team will support participants who wish to enrich their yards with native plants that provide more habitat for birds and pollinators.

We will provide:

  • Volunteer mentors to visit your site and offer suggestions on how to improve the habitat and work toward Habitat Haven certification, moving at your chosen pace.
  • Information about what to do and how, based on your goals.
  • Three levels of certification. Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
  • A lawn sign upon enrollment, and a metal sign upon certification.
  • Discounts on native plants at local native plant nurseries.

It’s easy to get started, and so satisfying to observe the resulting increase in birds and pollinators! We hope to begin site visits this summer. Our pilot will include 20 properties throughout Eugene, each a half-acre or less in size, drawn at random from a list of interested participants. And that’s just the beginning. Those who aren’t among the first 20, will go on a waiting list from which we’ll draw the next round of participants. The service fee is a modest $35 to cover costs. Additional donations are encouraged.

To sign up, please see the Habitat Haven Enrollment Form here. We also need volunteer mentors, especially people who are knowledgeable about native plants and gardening. Administrative help will be required as well, for assembling packets and carrying out other office-type functions.

FMI or questions: email

To volunteer: email or fill out the Volunteer Interest Form.

We will contact you!

Let’s grow nature together with Habitat Haven!

by Board Member Barbara Bryson