Woman Restoring Wetland in Her Backyard

Woman Restoring Wetland in Her Backyard

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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Ann Ribera's mother once told her that if she wanted to change the world, she should start in her own backyard.

Ann has taken the advice to heart, deciding to restore a wetland marsh that is, literally, her backyard.

The 5 acres behind Ann's Young Ward home long provided habitat for water fowl, including pelicans, ducks and geese. Pheasants wandered at the edge of the property. Eagles have nested in their willow trees.

But this year, the birds are gone. Typically, in May the acreage floods with water from nearby Spring Creek. The marsh that is created dries up somewhat through the fall, but leaves enough water for the birds to stay year-round.

This fall, something changed. The water dried up completely and the area was overrun with invasive weeds.

Ann believes the dry summer led nearby farmers to irrigate more, reducing the creek flow. She and her husband, John, were saddened by the marsh's disappearance.

"Cache Valley is known for its panoramic views and the rural area," John said, explaining he'd like to preserve that character.

So Ann decided to take action.

After getting advice from engineers, she realized she could bring the wetland back if she dug a deeper basin in the yard for more water to collect.

The vivacious former Army wife also heard that grant funds are available for turning a backyard into a conservation area.

By making the land an easement, it can never be developed, preserving the area for future generations.

"I want to leave a legacy," she said. "I'd like to make a habitat for wildlife and grandchildren."

The first step toward creating that legacy requires surveying the property so the Army Corps of Engineers can approve the creation of the basin.

Earlier this month, a group of about 20 volunteers, neighbors and Boy Scouts wandered the acreage, digging hole after hole, dozens in all. Each had to be 16 inches deep and about a foot across.

Ann and John want to expand the amount of wetlands that naturally occurs on the property and must document the soil types where they plan to place it.

The information will be collected in a wetland delineation report and sent to the ACE's offices in Bountiful at the end of November. The couple hopes to get ACE's permission by the spring, then begin planting wetland vegetation.

Eventually, Ann would like to build a boardwalk and observation deck so youth groups can observe the birds.

When that day comes, 8-year-old Cameron Poulsen will be able to say he was there when it all began.

The Cub Scout spent a recent Saturday morning digging, looking for "some kind of soil." He was joined by his dad, Jim; mom, Brenda; and brothers Chase and Chandler. The family lives down the street from the Riberas.

"We came because we're neighbors and also because I hunt water fowl and upland game," Jim said. "It's a worthy cause. We're helping provide more habitat for the game."

Jim was giving up the first day of the pheasant hunt, but didn't mind.

"There will be plenty of days to hunt," he said. "This way we're providing a place for more pheasants."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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