A Southern California landscape contractor and community volunteers came together to work on a residential landscape project and used the funds generated to restore habitat in the Cleveland National Forest. Back to Natives Restoration (BTN), a not for profit public charity is a landscape contracting firm that uses its profits to fund native plant habitat restoration on public lands. BTN was incorporated in 2007 and draws over 1,000 volunteers each year for its various landscape contracting and habitat restoration projects.
The idea to build native plant landscapes came about a decade ago when Reginald Durant, executive director of BTN, began receiving numerous requests to consult on residential and commercial native plant landscape projects. Durant began charging for these consultations and native plant services after homeowners and businesses were unable to find contractors familiar with native plants and the unique methods of installing and maintaining them. To that end, Durant acquired his C-27 contractor's license on behalf of BTN in 2011 so that the organization could to enter into contracts to restore lands owned by government agencies.
Before work at this residential project in Santa Ana, Calif., could get underway, a large nonnative tree, an existing wooden trellis and a flagstone path had to be removed. Over the course of two months three BTN employees and four volunteers removed the existing landscaping and hardscape. The team installed an irrigation system and French style drainage along with a brick path, a dry creek bed, native plants, a steel trellis and a rainwater harvesting system.
All of the soil on site was put to good use. Rather than disposing of it after installing the drainage and pathways, Back to Natives used it to add topographical improvements to the yard. This created a sense of privacy for the seating area and providing the native plants with the slope aspect they prefer and the drainage that they require. On this residential project, the plants and irrigation were installed in two workshops during which community members came for free workshops on how to install native plants and water wise irrigation and to encourage them to do the same.
"The more people that go native, the more habitat we create for native animals," says Durant. "With the loss of habitat we have to make the most of the green spaces we have left."