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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Every yard counts! Altacal Audubon’s Neighborhood Housing Certification Program | real shit

We know we are losing wildlife habitat. We know that birds and pollinators are in danger. The good news is that through Altacal Audubon’s Neighborhood Habitat Certification Program, our home gardens can become part of the solution by conserving water and protecting native wildlife. Altacal aims to support community members interested in converting unused lawns into natural, drought-tolerant California landscaping and habitat.

The Altacal Audubon Society is the local chapter of the non-profit National Audubon Society, serving Butte, Glen and Tehama counties. Altacal’s mission is to “promote awareness, appreciation, and conservation of native birds and their habitats through education, research, and environmental activities.”

‘The Real Dirt’ is a column by various local master gardeners who are part of the UC Master Gardeners of Butte County.

The three-county chapter has been instrumental in advocacy and educational programs to protect local wildlife habitat.

The Neighborhood Habitat Certification Program is unique to Altacal. It was designed by Altacal leaders during recent drought years as they sought a simple yet effective way to help local communities reduce water use. They attracted many experts who contributed to the creation of the program, including botanists, landscape designers, ornithologists, wildlife biologists and native plant experts, as well as the UC Master Gardener program and the Mount Lassen chapter of the California Native Plant Society. , The Neighborhood Habitat Program received initial grant funding from the National Audubon Society and the California Water Service; The city of Chico supported the effort. All parties agreed that the best way to encourage residents to make lasting change would be through an educational program.

The Neighborhood Habitat Program’s water-saving strategy of landscaping with native plants also creates habitat that provides vital sustenance for birds, bees and butterflies, a perfect combination of plants and fauna that have evolved together over thousands of years. . As the program grows in number and effectiveness, the local experts who contributed to its design continue to share their experience and enthusiasm.

Altacal emphasizes that the program focuses on connecting experts, honoring program members, and creating spaces where these participants share their knowledge. The Neighborhood Habitat Program Coordinator, Carla Resnick, engages and informs the community through a biennial newsletter via email. To subscribe, email her at neighborhood township.around@gmail.com.

Below is a brief outline of the Neighborhood Habitat Certification Program and how you can qualify for an attractive Certified Neighborhood Habitat Sign, declaring that you are “restoring habitat and conserving water.” For more information please visit www.altacal.org or email the address listed above.

Accessibility is the goal of the program. You are not expected to plant your entire yard in natives; Rather, you are encouraged to convert as much as is possible for you and your lifestyle.

The first step is to register online for a small fee. You will then receive a packet of practical information including a resource guide; list of plants; program requirements; Tips for attracting, maintaining and protecting birds; And a simple step-by-step guide to creating a habitat garden. Another valuable resource is the presentation “Approaches to Creating a Habitat”, available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/sepoPzWtx9k.

Step two involves identifying where you can make changes: Can an entire lawn be converted into valuable and beautiful habitat? Do you need to save a bit of lawn for pets and/or kids? What type of sun exposure does your yard receive? Is your soil loamy, smooth or somewhere in between? Take some time to sketch out the layout of your yard, including the hardscape and existing vegetable or flower beds, trees, and open spaces. These open spaces are wonderful places for native landscaping groups.

The Certified Neighborhood Habitat Program offers two levels of certification: silver and gold. For Silver certification, replace half of your front or back yard lawn with drought-tolerant California landscaping; include at least five California natives and three of the five suggested vegetation layers (see below); use low-volume irrigation methods; Avoid the use of herbicides and insecticides; and one of the recommended wildlife management features (such as clean water sources, avian nesting boxes, native grasses or wildflowers, indoor cats only) or water conservation features (such as berms and swells, hydrozoning, permeable paths, mulch, contour with rainbarrels) ) include. ,

For Gold certification, replace all your front or back lawns; Choose at least eight natives, including all five vegetation layers in your landscape; use less water and avoid herbicides and pesticides; and establish at least two wildlife management and water conservation facilities.

Vegetation layers, also known as landscaping for wildlife, provide different food, nesting and sheltered habitats for different bird species. There are five layers: low-growing plants (not lawns) that make up the layers of the ground; a slightly longer layer of small and medium bushes; tall-growing shrubs; small trees; and tall trees.

Sheet-mulching is the best way to eliminate an existing lawn. While master gardeners recommend waiting eight to ten months before planting in your former lawn, Altacal’s faster method involves sheet mulching around new native plants. Either system produces similar results: housing gardens that conserve water, provide beauty and interest, and attract and retain bird and insect life.

To receive formal certification, complete the self-assessment form included in the packet, then contact Altacal, who will send a representative to your home to verify your changes and deliver your certification mark. The final step is to enjoy your role as neighborhood ambassador: the true purpose of the artistic blue sign with the yellow warbler is to encourage conversations about housing and how we can all contribute to the betterment of our communities. An old adage applies here: Each one, one teach – and Altacal hopes yard conversion is contagious!

Altacal encourages all of us to be wildlife managers, water conservationists and active educators in our neighborhoods and communities. The Certified Neighborhood Habitat Program currently has approximately 400 members. More than 100 of these members are fully certified, while others are in various stages of adding habitat to their yards. Wildlife is a notable advantage when there is a connected corridor to support wildlife. Imagine what we could do if all of our neighborhood’s front and back yards had at least one part of their space converted into valuable habitat – we could build wildlife corridors through our towns. And every yard will count.

Visit https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=13964 for the sheet-mulching method recommended by UC Master Gardeners of Butte County.

Butte County’s UC Master Gardeners are part of the University of California Cooperative Extension System, serving our community in a variety of ways, including 4-H, agricultural advisory, and nutrition and physical activity programs. To learn more about UCCE Butte County Master Gardeners, and help with gardening in our area, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg/. If you have any gardening questions or problems, call the hotline at 538-7201 or email mgbutte@ucanr.edu.

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