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A Cache Valley Community Is Taking Steps To Better Interaction With Nature


  I’m riding around Nibley, UT with Ron Hellstern, a former city councilman and retired science teacher. Ron is taking me on a tour through a few of his neighbor’s backyards, examples of a collaboration to turn their properties into wildlife habitats. Our first stop is the home of Eric Alder whose backyard pond attracts a wide variety of birds.


“The kind I enjoy seeing the most is probably the smaller birds, finches, sparrows, you’ll see a lot of doves around all over. I’m really not particular about which species I’m looking for. It’s just a matter of enjoying nature in my own backyard,” Alder says.

Alder and his fellow residents were able to certify their properties with the National Wildlife Federation by providing the necessary food, water and shelter to support wildlife. Habitats can be as simple as a bird feeder and a water dish, or acres of land as long as it’s able to support some form of wildlife.

Our next stop on the tour is painter David Mann’s house.

“I’m an artist. Everything that you put in your brain comes out eventually through your brush,” Mann says. “So I think if you live in beauty it has to translate down eventually and come out your brush, it’s always inspiration to me.”

Mann’s backyard is home to a number of birds and a few pesky deer who recently ate his grapes.

“If the deer want to eat it maybe I can live with that or plant something else,” Mann says. “We watched the ringneck doves have a little stand off with the magpies over the fallen food out of the bird feeder this morning, and the doves really held their own, it was amazing.”

Ron was able to recruit more than 90 of his neighbors to turn their backyards into wildlife habitats. For all their hard work, on Sept. 15 Nibley will officially become Utah’s first “Community Wildlife Habitat” certified by the National Wildlife Federation, joining the ranks of cities like Annapolis, MD, Austin, TX and Sonoma, CA.

For Ron this is a big accomplishment, not because the title and the award, but because his community took action to preserve the often difficult relationship between man and nature.

“You know I’ve always had the opinion that we’re part of the system. I don’t care if you use it from a religious or a naturalist standpoint, but we’re supposed to have dominion over things. To me that means responsibility and care, it means it’s our job to make this as pleasing and as abundant for nature as possible because everyone wins that way,” Ron said. “My father who lived back in Chicago would come out here. I told him once that someone was trying to sell us a cabin in the Bear Lake area, and he said ‘Why would you go, you’ve got it right here just go out your back door.’ He was right, it’s quite and peaceful and we get to share. It’s good stuff, I’m glad we are here.”