Contributors: Rod Silver and Sara Muir
Location: , British Columbia
Land Use: Settlement
Naturescape British Columbia is an initiative supported by the provincial and federal government, Wildlife Habitat Canada, the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund and various other non-profit organizations. Naturescape has built on the ongoing work of many long-time habitat gardeners in the province and across North America. Created in 1995, Naturescape British Columbia was developed to encourage habitat creation in urban and rural areas of the province. To date, approximately 4,000 people have joined the Naturescape program and four municipalities have incorporated Naturescape principles into their land management practices.
However, reductions can be made in the damage caused by urbanization. Remaining segments of habitat can be preserved, damaged habitats can be restored, and lost habitat can be recreated over time. Individual citizens can participate in this process right in their own backyards by utilizing and ecologically sustainable landscape practice known as naturescaping.
Naturescaping, or natural landscaping, can be described as landscaping to create ecologically sound, sustainable and aesthetically pleasing urban landscapes through the use of plant species native to the region. Naturescaping promotes creating landscapes that restore, preserve and enhance wildlife habitat in urban and rural areas. Naturescaping emphasizes creating landscapes with purpose – that are both beautiful and provide habitat for native plant and animal species.
Naturescaping has a significant role to play in the creation of sustainable urban landscapes in British Columbia. Conventional landscape trends involve the extensive use of lawns and exotic horticultural specimens. Such landscapes are prevalent throughout North America, and give very little thought to the specific local conditions, regional climates, soils and other constraints. Conventional landscapes rely heavily on exotic plant and tree species, need ongoing intensive horticultural management, including the application of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and can require extensive supplemental watering.
Naturescaping addresses many of the ecological issues surrounding traditional landscape practices and has the following benefits:
1. Reduces water consumption.
On average 40% of municipal water supplies are dedicated to lawns and gardens. Creating landscapes of native plants reduces total water consumption because native plants are more water-thrifty and adapted to regional weather cycles. Prudent use of water is one of Canada’s most urgent ecological and economic issues.
2. Improves water quality.
Reducing or eliminating the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers from landscape maintenance eliminates non-point source pollution from these sources. Such action helps keep waterways free of pesticides and fertilizers.
3. Creates habitat and improves biodiversity in urban areas.
Loss of biodiversity and habitat is a very serious issue in urban areas. Landscape practices that provide habitat helps to mitigate the effects of development. Naturalized landscapes can act in conjunction with existing parks and public green spaces to connect habitat throughout the landscape.
4. Eliminates the spread of invasive species.
Many invasive plant species, such as Scotch broom, gorse, and purple knapweed, are exotic horticultural escapes. These plants have spread out of gardens and into the natural world often out-competing many native species of plants.
5. Creates landscapes that have regional context.
Contemporary landscapes are very similar wherever you go. A natural landscape creates regional context and reflects the particular environment in which it is found. For example, a landscape in Victoria could utilize plants found in Garry Oak meadows; a landscape in Kelowna could utilize grassland/xerophytic plants.
6. Supports the establishment and growth of local nursery trades that propagate native plants and landscape specialists who deal with the creation of natural landscapes.
Landscapes that use native plants support native plant nurseries and landscape specialists, and thereby contribute to increased growth for industries that are an important part of the green economy.
7. Reduces landscape maintenance costs.
Natural landscapes are cost effective. Conventionally maintained landscapes are very expensive and time consuming to maintain. Naturalized landscapes are not maintenance free, but the bulk of costs are restricted to the first three years while the landscape is being established. Once a naturalized landscape is established, the bulk of the maintenance becomes annual or semi annual. Comprehensive studies by the Environment Protection Agency (USA) and the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission have determined that over a 5-10 year period cost savings of 80% – 90% could be expected with a naturalized landscape as opposed to a conventionally managed landscape.
Naturescape principles can be applied by:
1. Using native plants.
Many nurseries now grow native plants and many species are available.
2. Using a diversity of plant species.
Planting a diversity of plant species creates a visually diverse landscape and provides habitat for a variety of wildlife species.
3. Providing habitat includes the provision of food, shelter and water for wildlife species.
Plant vegetation that provides food and shelter, and consider ways to offer a source of water.
4. Phasing out the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
5. Working with your neighbours and community to educate them about the important benefits of this change to the urban landscape.
Naturescaping has important ecological and economic benefits. Naturescaping principles can be applied to urban and rural landscapes, and public lands. Creating landscapes that employ ecologically sound practices reduces pollution, reduces the use of valuable water resources, creates habitat for native flora and fauna, and returns nature and natural beauty to urban and rural areas.
1. Community Ownership Objective: To ensure the program is promoted and supported by its participants, Naturescape will facilitate a growing network of people, exchanging information, experiences and knowledge through various media and outreach activities.
2. Educational Objective: To promote appropriate techniques for wildlife habitat and biodiversity conservation, Naturescape will provide practical and scientifically based educational resource materials on caring for wildlife habitat on private residential property.
3. Financial Objective: To create a program that is financially sustaining, Naturescape will strive to achieve financial independence through development of on-going financial and in-kind support from individuals, clubs and organizations, retailers, corporate sponsors, non-government agencies, and various levels of government.
Naturescape British Columbia works to provide education on the benefits of naturescaping and provides landowners with educational materials that describe how to create natural landscapes. Naturescape British Columbia also serves to give validity and recognition to non-traditional landscape methods that reflect regional diversity and reduce impacts on the environment.
Though there have been reports of increases in insects, birds, amphibians and other wildlife in Naturescape participants’ yards, assessing the overall habitat enhancement of the Naturescape program remains a challenge. This is not uncommon in voluntary initiatives where results are linked to personal interests, economic considerations, existing ecological conditions on properties and availability of local support. While the reports on increases in fauna observed by Naturescape participants are promising, the participants’ observations remain subjective estimates. It is naturally very challenging for Naturescape participants to estimate changes in fauna, yet it is possible for them to report on purposeful changes they have made to vegetation and habitat. And, though the extent of Naturescape’s impacts on the overall enhancement of native flora and fauna may be difficult to quantify, the changes in landowner behavior, and the improvement in backyard habitat reported to date, suggests that Naturscape can support significant, cumulative habitat enhancement over time. As the program evolves, inventory, mapping and monitoring of Naturescape gardens will assist in providing cumulative habitat data, and will lead to more quantitative conclusions about Naturescape’s flora and fauna enhancement.
The Stewardship Pledge was a three-year project started in 1993 to help focus government and non-government efforts to protect biodiversity values through private land-owner stewardship. The original proposal for Naturescape was a response to some of Wildlife Habitat Canada’s targets for 1993/94:
• WHC will continue to identify opportunities to participate in initiatives designed to enhance habitat with the urban landscape or, to increase awareness of the importance of habitat conservation for urban residents and the development of ecological approaches to land use planning at the municipal level.
• WHC will promote the need for an urban stewardship program that recognizes the efforts of backyard conservationists
To demonstrate to WHC and other partners the support for an urban-based backyard wildlife project in British Columbia, 25 signatures of key people and agency representatives were collected. The array of supporters included the Regional Director of the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Executive Vice President of the Nature Trust of British Columbia, the Provincial Manager of Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Director of the BC Wildlife Federation, the Chair of the BC Federation of Naturalists, and several directors of BC government agencies. Following a successful proposal to WHC agreement in principle to fund a program to promote private land stewardship was announced at the conclusion of the Stewardship 94 Conference in March 1994. Naturescape British Columbia had another champion as well. At the same time that the Stewardship Pledge partnership was being forged, Sylvia Pincott of the Abbotsford Naturalists had been running a successful “Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program” in the Fraser Valley. Both Pincot and Silver had been strongly influenced in their work by a successful program in nearby Washington State, run by Urban Wildlife Specialist Russell Link. With Pincott’s grassroots experience and Silver’s agreement and financial support from sponsors “to form an advisory committee and see if an urban wildlife habitat stewardship initiative could be designed,” Naturescape BC was launched in Victoria on July 7, 1995.
An office in the provincial Habitat Conservation Trust Fund is the administrative hub for Naturescape. Naturescape has a staff of less than one full time equivalent. Duties are divided between a Program Manager and a Program Coordinator. The Program Manager commits about 5% of his time to the program; and the Program Coordinator devote 17 hours a week to Naturescape British Columbia.
The Program Manager acts as chair of the Naturescape Advisory Committee that is responsible for the direction, policy, and partnerships around the initiative.
The Program Coordinator is responsible for ensuring Naturescape’s objectives are carried out, and ensuring its commitment to participants, partners and sponsors is fulfilled. The Project Coordinator’s tasks include, but are not limited to: distributing kits; producing and distributing the newsletter; coordinating the use of display material and slides; linking with Ambassadors; handling requests for presentations and workshops; attending to correspondence and the 1-800 number; and, designing and editing other educational materials. The coordinator is also a liaison for the Ambassadors, naturalists, media, contractors, Naturescape participants, and members of the Naturescape Advisory Committee.
The Advisory Committee
The Advisory Committee, composed of government and non-government cooperators, was established to provide Naturescape with expert advice and contacts with organizations. The Advisory Committee is made up of 17 members, including the Program Manager and the Program Coordinator. The Advisory Committees, in conjunction with Naturescape partners, oversees planning and implementation of Naturescape and its related projects, as well as the development and implementation of new projects. Generally, the Committee meets every three to four months.
Each Naturescape participant receives a Naturescape Kit, which contains:
• A Provincial Guide – the provincial guide contains general information about wildlife habitat creation, landscape design, building nest boxes and ponds, and constructing butterfly and hummingbird gardens.
• A Regional Specific Native Plant and Animal Booklet – this booklet lists the plants and animals native to that region of the province. It also explains habitat requirements and offers regionally specific recommendations.
• A Regionally Specific Resource Booklet – the resource booklet lists regionally specific resources of conservation organizations, naturalist groups, sources of native plants and landscapers who specialize in native plants.
Naturescape also offers technical support in the form of a 1-800 number. People can call this number and access information about the program, and naturescaping information about the common problems. A newsletter is distributed twice a year to keep participants informed and in touch with new projects, information and web sites of interest.
In addition to providing these resources and technical information, Naturescape British Columbia has completed one Ambassador Project. The Ambassador Project, sponsored by Action 21 and completed for the Georgia Basin, activates networking and community outreach to help spread the word about Naturescape British Columbia. This project is seen as a way of formalizing a Naturescape networking process. The Ambassador Project provides naturalists, educators and people from a broad scope of interests, education and training in the ethics, concepts, and techniques of Naturescape. In exchange for this training, individuals offer a ‘commitment’ to pass the Naturescape message on to the community. This commitment can be fulfilled by a variety of methods, such as:
• Voluntarily distributing brochures and passing on information to people they know;
• Voluntarily presenting talks and slide shows to community organizations;
• Voluntarily staffing Naturescape displays; and,
• Conducting fee for service workshops, courses and field trips.
Individuals interested in becoming Ambassadors are asked to submit a completed application form, attend a Naturescape training workshop, and sign a commitment agreement with Naturescape British Columbia. Ambassadors are encouraged to express Naturescape ideas to families, friends and neighbours, to distribute brochures, give slide shows, staff display booths, organize field trips, or offer nature interpretation services. The Naturescape office provides Ambassadors with notices of opportunities to volunteer at special events. (To sign up as an Ambassador or to learn more about the Ambassador project, contact the Naturescape office through the contact information provided below.)
Naturescape British Columbia is recognized as one of the most complete natural landscaping program in North America. Through its unique and comprehensive program activities – including the collaboration with educational programs and institutions; the Naturescape publications; the 1-800 number; and, the Abassador program – Naturescape has provided immediate benefits to its members and their ‘backyard’ habitat. Furthermore, through these programs, Naturescape has extended its land ethic and habitat values beyond the yards of private landowners to benefit communities and biodiversity at a regional level.
Linkages with Educational Programs and Institutions
Naturescape has established relationships with a diversity of educational programs, including:
• Wild BC
• Scout and Girl Guide Leaders
• Green Links Program, the Institute of Urban Ecology, Douglas College, Vancouver
• North Vancouver Outdoor School
• Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre, North Vancouver
• Morrel Sanctuary, Nanaimo
• Okanagan College, Kelowna
• Langara College, Vancouver
• Vandusen Gardens, Vancouver
• UBC Botanical Gardens, Vancouver Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, Victoria
• Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, Victoria
• Goldstream Nature House, Victoria
• Allan Brookes Nature House and Interpretive Centre, Vernon
These relationships and cooperative efforts have been very effective, and mutually beneficial – institutions and organizations benefit from the resource information Naturescape provides, in turn, the Naturescape program is promoted to a large, diverse audience.
The Ambassador Program (Georgia Basin)
Over 145 volunteers, from approximately 39 different Georgia Basin communities, have been trained as Naturescape Ambassadors. Of the 145 that have been trained, there are about 100 Ambassadors that are actively spreading the word about Naturescape. During the spring months, Naturescape Ambassadors are attending, on average, one event per week. From June 1997 to February 1998, a period of 8 months, over 72 Naturescape Ambassadors attended 20 different events.
The Naturescape Publications
Naturescape has published material, including booklets, newsletters and information updates, for the Georgia Basin, the Okanagan, Kootenay, and Cariboo regions of the province. The publications are recognized as accurate, technically sound, up-to-date resources, with appropriate geographical focus. Participants recognize the Naturescape publications as excellent ‘one-stop-shop’ sources of contact and network information. Naturescape publications for the Northern Regions and the Coast and Mountains are underway.
The 1-800 Telephone Line
Naturescape’s 1-800 line has been well-administered and has played several useful functions: getting information on the program to participants, putting participants in touch with other information sources, helping program staff to get to know participants, and providing government scientists with a place to send people for information.
Cumulative Effects of backyard habitat enhancement
On average, participants report that they have increased the percent of native plant species on their property by over 20% to create a significant increase in the proportion of native plant species within yards and gardens. Through the planting of native vegetation, as well as through hand-made structures (i.e. bird feeders and bat boxes), Naturescape participants have provided food, water and shelter to improve wildlife habitat in their yards. In addition, Naturescape members have employed water conservation (through modifications in their water collection and irrigation practices) and reduced pesticide and chemical use.
While the total ‘on the ground’ impacts of Naturescape are impossible to estimate at this time, numerous measures suggest that Naturescape is meeting its overall goal of encouraging private property owners in urban and rural communities to voluntarily create and maintain natural biodiversity and wildlife habitat on their property. Naturescape’s impact is real – enthusiasm for the program is high, education materials are effective, and registration is growing.
Naturescape British Columbia is grateful for the support of:
• Habitat Conservation Trust Fund
• Wildlife Habitat Canada
• British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
• Environment Canada – Canadian Wildlife Service and Action 21
• British Columbia Ministry of Air, Land and Water Protection – BC Environmental Youth Team
• Members of the Naturescape Advisory Committee
• Participants in the program
• Federation of BC Naturalists
• Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia
• Burnaby/Hastings Rotary Club
• British Columbia Landscape and Nursery Association
• British Columbia Society of Landscape Architects
• Urban Wildlife Committee, Vancouver
The Naturescape British Columbia Stewardship Centre Case Study is based on: The Naturescape British Columbia Business Plan (1996); “Naturescape: An Assessment of Naturescape British Columbia” – prepared for Wildlife Habitat Canada and Habitat Conservation Trust Fund by Dovetail Consulting Inc., Vancouver BC (1998); Naturescape British Columbia – A presentation for the conference “Caring for Our Land and Water: Stewardship and Conservation in Canada.” Guelph Ontario, 2000.
PO Box 9354
Stn. Prov. Government
Victoria, BC Canada
Fax: (250) 952 6684
The core funding from Naturescape BC’s first three years came from the following founding partners: • Wildlife Habitat Canada • The Habitat Conservation Trust Fund • Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada • The British Columbia Ministry of Air, Land and Water Protection This partnership has been valuable – Canada and the province have scientific credibility and legal responsibility around the management of wildlife and wildlife habitat; Wildlife Habitat Canada is a leader in the promotion of voluntary private land stewardship; and the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund has the ability to collect and manage the revenue necessary to keep booklets in print and the flow of new information registrants. In addition to these founding partners, Naturescape has collaborated on a variety of projects and initiatives with a number of organizations and institutions, including: • Participants in the program • Federation of BC Naturalists • Real Estate foundation of British Columbia • Burnaby/Hastings Rotary Club • British Columbia Landscape and Nursery Association • British Columbia Society of Landscape Architects • Urban Wildlife Committee, Vancouver • Evergreen • Wild BC • Scout and Girl Guide Leaders • Green Links Program, The Institute of Urban Ecology, Douglas College • North Vancouver Outdoor School • Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre, North Vancouver • Morrel Sanctuary, Nanaimo • Okanagan College • Langara College • Vandusen Gardens • UBC Botanical Gardens • Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, Victoria • Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, Victoria