Residents’ drivers and barriers to participation in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program : Study of socio-ecological factors in Madison South neighborhood in NE Portland Public

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_projects/gh93h0152

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  • As urban development fractures and reduces available habitat for birds and other wildlife, conservationists are increasing pursuing strategies to improve the habitat value of privately owned yards in and around cities. The Backyard Habitat Certification Program is a collaborative effort between the Portland Audubon Society and the Columbia Land Trust that has a two pronged mission: to increase the amount of available habitat for wildlife in the Portland Metro region by encouraging homeowners of lots one acre or less to naturescape their yards; and to increase stewardship and conservation awareness by broadening their participant base. Backyard Habitat’s agency in achieving both goals is linked to 1) their effectiveness at engaging and enrolling residents, 2) residents’ access to greenspace, and 3) their interest and agency in naturescaping their yards. Based on circumstantial evidence, Backyard Habitat is concerned they are not capturing the racial and ethnic diversity of the communities that they serve. This suggests that cultural and/or structural factors are limiting thier access to private yards and scope in providing conservation education. This study begins to explore the drivers and barriers to participation in the Northeast Portland neighborhood of Madison South with the objective of providing community specific and generalizable recommendations on how Backyard Habitat could broaden and deepen participation. Madison South was chosen as the study site because Backyard Habitat would like to increase participation there in order to enhance the impact of a large-scale habitat restoration project: the Dharma Rain Zen Center’s development at Siskiyou Square. The study used a social-ecological framework to explore both ecological and sociological factors that could serve as drivers or barriers to residents in choosing 1) to naturescape and 2) to participate in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program. The study consisted of three phases and looked at two scales of analysis: structural and cultural factors at the societal level and at the individual scale. Phase 1 assessed societal structural and cultural factors within the neighborhood (n= 5,314) including racial and ethnic diversity, language fluency, tenure status, and the value and distribution of greenspace using a combination of US Census data and publicly available on-line mapping tools (Metro Maps, Portland Maps, and Intertwine Alliance’s Regional Conservation Strategy overlays, Google Maps). Phase 2 and 3 consisted of smaller group of participants(n=28) that lived within 200m Siskiyou Square, and used mixed methods door-to-door surveys and guided interviews to explore individual interests, beliefs, and constraints shaping both desired and actual yard use. Phase 2 included the use of a yard-type instrument that allowed participants to indicate their interest in naturescaped, highly manicured, and predominantly permaculture yards by selecting among photographs. The study found that Madison South would be a good neighborhood for Backyard Habitat to engage with the purpose of diversifying their base since it was a relatively diverse racial and ethnic neighborhood within the Portland Metro region. However, since homeownership was disproportionately limited to White and Asian residents, the author recommends that Backyard Habitat should consider strategies for including renters in order to engage a representative demographic. Considering the percentage of rented, single-family homes with yards around the Siskiyou Square neighborhood, such strategies could serve Backyard Habitat’s ecological goals. The study identified limited English as a likely barrier for engaging some homeowners, particularly elderly Vietnamese. However the participant pool was too small to identify preferences, such desired as yard-type, along racial or ethnic lines. With 19% of homes owned by racial and ethnic minorities, Backyard Habitat should consider strategies for further identifying, and overcoming cultural barriers. The survey, interview questionnaire and yard-type instrument appeared useful at identifying receptivity to naturescaping and strategies for broadening participation. Based on the study’s findings and input from participants, the study makes recommendations for how Backyard Habitat can increase participation by being better known, being appealing, and being feasible to a variety of residents.
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