Outside Looking In - Columbia Land Trust
A local mother and son find a home in the outdoors


Jennifer Horvath was looking for a change when she and her three-year-old son, Alden, moved from Wyoming to Portland last September. She found it. In addition to the rain, she needed time to adjust to a more urban, less familiar environment.

Horvath happened across a mention of the Backyard Habitat Certification Program* in a PGE newsletter. She thought first about the backyard of her rental, which had very little going on in terms of plant life, then about how nice it would be to invite birds, butterflies, and bees into her space. She enrolled in the program and received a site evaluation from a Backyard Habitat technician.

A few months later, Horvath received an issue of Fieldbook, in which she noticed an invitation to Columbia Land Trust’s annual picnic. The invitation arrived just as she was growing eager to get outside with Alden and explore her new surroundings. They ventured out to the picnic site— the Land Trust’s Columbia Stock Ranch property along the Columbia River—and stayed late picking blackberries.

“Alden and I are indoors a lot, so I like to spend our time together outside,” said Horvath. “When we’re outdoors together, we always learn a lot, it’s good for us, and we get to connect with people who value open space.”

Jennifer and her son are part of a startling statistic. Portland’s metropolitan area is growing at a rate of 111 people per day, with more than two-thirds of the new residents coming from other parts of the country. Originally an East Coaster, Jennifer knows what can happen when a city grows without smart planning or concerted conservation efforts.

Jennifer and her son are also part of a more heartening statistic. They’re responsible for one of the region’s 3,400 properties—spanning 820 acres—enrolled in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program. While Jennifer’s not sure how much she’ll get planted this fall, she’s already planted some trees and enjoyed tending a small garden with Alden.

Through opportunities like the Backyard Habitat Certification Program, Jennifer and other newcomers are connecting with nature while joining a welcoming community of nature lovers. Moving to a new place is always hard, but experiencing and caring for local lands and wildlife might just make putting down roots a little easier. Now Jennifer just needs to figure out how to embrace the rain.

*The Backyard Habitat Certification Program is run in partnership by Columbia Land Trust and the Audubon Society of Portland.