Programs support urban natural habitats; certifications available


As natural habitats lessen with urban expansion, gardeners can support local wildlife and insects by incorporating native plant habitats in their yards or gardens.

Plant habitats can range from a planters box on an apartment balcony to landscaping around a home to inviting helpful insects to areas through wildlife habitat practices.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Habitat at Home program and the Backyard Habitat Certification Program, among others, provide tips to elevate the gardening scene into a haven for local critters. Gardeners can also apply to have their habitat certified through both programs.

For residents, the Habitat at Home program certifies small space habitats such as balconies, patios and other areas, as well as wildlife habitat yards, which include landscaping small yards to properties with greater acreage and larger natural spaces.

WDFW defines a habitat as offering food, water, shelter and space.

• Food: Plants are the best food source for many wildlife species. In addition to providing food, plants can also attract insects that can benefit wildlife. 

• Water: All wildlife needs water to survive, either from natural or provided sources.

• Shelter: Wildlife needs a place to rest and escape from the weather and predators. Planting native plants at varying heights benefits wildlife.

• Space: Wildlife needs space to raise young and survive. Overhead cover can often double as a place for wildlife to raise their young. Bird houses, small trees, shrubs or plants for pollinators help, too.

“By creating wildlife habitat at home, you can help offset habitat lost to housing and urban development in Washington,” according to WDFW’s website.

Those interested in beginning their habitat journey can follow tips from numerous sources, including the Backyard Habitat Certification Program by the Columbia Land Trust and Bird Alliance of Oregon,

Locally, native plants can be purchased at Woodland’s Tsugawa Nursery, Watershed Garden Works in Longview and the newly opened Nature’s Haven in Camas.

The process to apply for a free certification sign by WDFW’s program is simple but requires some thought into what the habitat includes.

Those interested can estimate the size of their habitat and specify the location such as a small space habitat, wildlife habitat yard or a community habitat. Then, they should estimate the size of the habitat — from containers measured in square feet to traditional yards to areas over an acre in size.

The next step in the application process is to name the main motivation for creating and sustaining the wildlife habitat. Motivations include family, education, stewardship, health and wellbeing and community. WDFW also asks what food sources the habitat provides critters, water sources, what shelters and possible space for wildlife to raise young, as well as how the habitat conserves resources through sustainable practices.

To learn more about WDFW’s Habitat at Home program, visit