January 25, 1999
The Bogues' wood duck box sits on a cottonwood tree over a pond. They regularly trim the tree's branches to provide easy access for the birds.
Photo courtesy of the Bogue family.
by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter
WOODINVILLE--Birds, butterflies, squirrels, and humans will probably all benefit from Woodinville's effort to tailor a successful state wildlife program to the city.
The Woodinville City Council will likely adopt the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary program this week and enhance it through classes and a "junior sanctuary keeper" program in local schools.
The backyard sanctuary's central idea is empowering property owners to become resource managers of their own lands, according to the city. And by planting native trees and shrubs and providing feed, not only do birds, insects, and animals recover habitat, but residents then have more opportunities to view Mother Nature.
According to state biologist Russell Link, no yard is too big or small to be a sanctuary and said it was up to residents how far they became involved in the program. "It's an opportunity for education--a stepping stone or turning point. Noticing animals in the neighborhood, (residents) also become aware of the native plants they require," said Link, who coordinates the program locally.
About 6,000 residents take part in the program statewide, Link said. One of those is Woodinville City Councilmember Carol Bogue. She said when she and her husband moved to Woodinville a dozen years ago, they decided to keep one corner of their property wild.
The Bogues added a wood duck nest box, and the colorful waterfowl have been nesting at their Wellington-area home ever since. They also have a pond that attracts hooded mergansers and herons, and serves as a nesting area for mallards. "We've really enjoyed it," Bogue said.
The way the program works is a resident requests a backyard sanctuary packet which contains a wealth of information on plants that attract wildlife, how to build bird houses and ponds, and which animals may be in your yard at different times. The state then asks the resident to fill out an application form that lists the types and numbers of trees in their yard, and a list of food and feeders that they will provide for wildlife.
Afterwards, the state designates the resident as "habitat manager" for their yard and will send an all-weather plaque for posting that reads, "This property has been certified as a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary for the benefit and protection of Washington's urban wildlife."
Woodinville Parks Director Lane Youngblood said participating residents would get a city decal to add to the sign. The city's sanctuary program would be enhanced through a Parks & Recreation Department class on wildlife common to Woodinville, horticulture, how to design wildlife areas, and a neighborhood field trip.
Entire neighborhoods would be encouraged to participate as sanctuaries to maximize benefits. Youngblood said the city hoped to focus on the ravines that lead out of the hills.
Link says if a property adjoining a wild area were to enroll, it could actually lead to expanded animal habitat. According to Fish and Wildlife, over 35,000 acres of habitat are lost each year, much of that due to housing and development. The state instituted the program to offset some of that loss.
Also, the city hopes to involve junior sanctuary keepers--fourth and fifth graders in local elementaries--as well as businesses. All participants would receive a twice-yearly newsletter from the state.
Ever watchful for ways to recruit volunteers, Youngblood said if citizens become involved at the grass roots level, they may join in larger projects, which may also be important in this era of threatened salmon runs. Providing more natural plants, and having less lawn may translate to less chemical runoff, she said.
"In the long run, it'll help water quality," Youngblood predicted. "Downstream--and we all live downstream--we won't have as many pesticides or lawn chemicals."
Link cautioned residents that they'll need patience if they enroll. "No feeder brings in birds almost immediately," he said, but added that over a period of years, wildlife officials have seen photographable results.
Woodinville Parks & Recreation Commission made the program a component of the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan. Last week, the City Council generally appeared comfortable with it.
"I'll certainly have to enroll my back yard," said Mayor Don Brocha. "All I have to do is figure out what to do with cats."
The city hopes to offer the program in this spring or fall's Woodinville/Bothell Parks and Recreation Guide. For those residents outside of the city who would like an information packet now, send $5 to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary Program, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd., Mill Creek, WA 98012. More information can be found on the Internet at www.wa.gov/wdfw.