Step 1: Enroll in the program.
Step 2: The site visit. ASWP will visit your property to conduct a site assessment. During this time, the ASWP staff will talk with you about your goals for the property, determine site conditions, and determine where your yard stands in the program requirements.
Step 3: ASWP will send you a customized report which will include plant recommendations for your site conditions and ways in which you can meet your desired level of habitat certification.
Step 4: Plant your habitat: This is the part of the process where you plant your native plants and do fun things like install a bird bath.
Step 5: Get Certified! Once you’ve completed your plan, contact ASWP to let us know that you’re ready to get certified. We will visit your yard once again to verify that the program requirements have been met. We’ll then give you a beautiful Certified Backyard Habitat sign and a Field Guide to Common Species of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Backyard Habitat Certification Program has three levels:
- Habitat Guardian (Silver)
- Habitat Champion (Gold)
- Habitat Hero (Platinum)
Each level is centered around five focus areas: Native Plants, Natural Products, Wildlife Stewardship, Clean Water, and Homeowner Engagement. Click [here] for a downloadable file that lists certification requirements.
A Certified Backyard Habitat must include each of the following 5 focus areas: Native Plants, Natural Products, Wildlife Stewardship, Clean Water, and Homeowner Engagement.
The first Certified Backyard Habitat focus area focuses on native plants and habitat layers. Native plants are the foundation of healthy habitat, providing important roosting and nesting spots for birds, and food from nuts and seeds to fruit, nectar, and insects. Habitat layers, also called vertical structure, provides places for birds to hide from predators, locations to nest and sources of nesting material, and helps to ensure food sources are available throughout the seasons. Click [here] for details about the requirements for the Native Plant focus area of the program.
The second focus area for creating a Certified Backyard Habitat is reducing or eliminating chemical use. The use of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers has been proven to significantly damage ecosystems. Some problems associated with the use of chemicals include a reduction of natural food for birds, polluted streams, damage to pollinator populations, and impacts to human health. There are many organic gardening solutions that protect the integrity of our environment and help ensure that your garden thrives. For details about the requirements for the Natural Products focus area of the program, click [here] to view certification criteria.
The third focus area for creating a Certified Backyard Habitat is to provide extra levels of Wildlife Stewardship. Birds, pollinators, and wildlife are faced with surviving in an increasingly challenging landscape. Some threats to birds include habitat loss, predation from outdoor cats, window strikes, and climate change. By taking extra steps to make your backyard even more hospitable for birds and pollinators, you can help ensure their success. Click [here] for details about the requirements for the Wildlife Stewardship focus area of the program.
Clean water practices support healthy habitat and healthy rivers and streams. Many birds rely on clean streams for food and nesting habitat. Many other creatures such as frogs, dragonflies, beavers, and trout rely on clean streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes to survive. And most Pennsylvanians rely on streams and rivers for drinking water. It is important that each of us do our part to help protect our streams and rivers -- your backyard is a perfect place to get started! Click [here] for details about the requirements of the Clean Water focus area of the program.
Once you get started on your backyard habitat, we’re sure that you will want to learn more and share your passion and excitement with friends and neighbors. You may take native plant classes, participate in a Citizen Science program, recruit neighbors for to create a Backyard Habitat, or showcase your new Backyard Habitat. There are many ways to fulfill the Education and Engagement program requirements. Click [here] to learn more about the Backyard Habitat Certification Criteria.
The program is currently open to residents of ASWP’s chapter territory, which includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties.
- Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania Members: Enroll in the program for a discounted rate of $60.
- Non-Members: If you're not a member of Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, please enroll in the program at the rate of $90. This program fee comes with a complimentary 1 year household membership to ASWP.
After you enroll, ASWP will provide resources and offers a variety of programs that can help you get started on your Backyard Habitat before we conduct your assessment.
You'll receive a welcome packet of resources within 3 weeks of enrollment. Next, we will contact you in the order of enrollment to set up an assessment appointment. Keep an eye on our calendar for habitat gardening workshops and Community Science opportunities – these will enrich your knowledge and count towards your Certified Backyard Habitat requirements.
Assessments are scheduled in the order of enrollment and take place from May – October each year. April 2023 Update: There is an approximate 3-4 month wait from program enrollment to assessment visit due to the popularity of the program. After you enroll, we’ll mail you a Welcome Packet that outlines steps that you can take before your assessment visit to grow your habitat. We look forward to working with you!
You can receive the discounted rate and discounts in our nature store and on other programs by becoming a member!
Members - click here to enroll in the program
Nonmembers - click here to enroll in the program
Sample Garden Designs
● Native Garden for Small Yard
● Native Garden for Medium to Large Yard
● Native Container Garden for Part Shade
● Native Container Garden for Full Sun
● Fundamentals of Organic Gardening
● Protecting Birds from Window Strikes
Clean Water & Healthy Watersheds
● Southwestern Pennsylvania Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater
● Household Hazardous Waste FAQs