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IDAHOAN TURNS YARD INTO BIRD SANCTUARY

The back yard of Elk City resident Mindy Wiebush is not your ordinary back yard. The 2-acre area is a certified sanctuary for birds and butterflies.

Wiebush's back yard is one of only 17 in Idaho that has been recognized by the National Wildlife Federation in its program of developing backyard wildlife habitats.From a quick drive-by, Wiebush's yard looks much like any other, except, perhaps, a little larger. She, her husband, Jim, the ranger of the Elk City District of the Nez Perce National Forest, and their two daughters, live next door to the ranger station on the edge of a wide meadow that opens into Elk City.

A couple of years ago, Wiebush heard about the backyard wildlife habitat program, and being an amateur ornithologist and horticulturist, she decided to begin managing her back yard for that purpose.

It wasn't really that complicated a task, she said. Wiebush made a map of the property and developed a list of the various species of wildlife and plants about 30 to 40 each that she found there.

Gradually, she has worked to develop areas of desirable habitat for the birds and butterflies that come there. That includes leaving areas of unmown grass birds and other wildlife may use for nesting or cover. Nesting boxes have been set out in some of the old trees and Wiebush even sets out a birdbath she has improvised out of a couple of concrete blocks and an upturned garbage can lid.

Wiebush also has tried to grow many of the native plants she finds around Elk City, a project with which she has had varying success. Plants grown from native seed have been more likely to survive than those grown from transplants, she said.

In developing the vegetation, Wiebush takes into consideration those plants that do not require a lot of watering and are easy to care for.

The National Wildlife Federation is trying to promote the development of backyard wildlife habitats and stress that people need not have a large area to make the kind of environment that will attract birds, butterflies, squirrels, frogs, bats, and other kinds of wildlife.