Mecklenburg County can lose up to 41 acres per day to development, and one organization has started in their own backyards to get some of those acres back for the Mecklenburg area’s wildlife.

Habitat and Wildlife Keepers, or HAWK, is a grassroots organization of like-minded individuals who share an interest in conserving the environment and wildlife in the area.

HAWK is a chapter of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, and is the first national chapter of the wildlife federation in North Carolina.

Their territory is Southeastern Mecklenburg County and parts of Union County, but they are based in Matthews, where the organization has done extensive work.

“We are an enthusiastic group of wildlife lovers,” said HAWK treasurer and co-founder  Carol Buie-Jackson.

Buie-Jackson was a founding member of the organization, which was charted in 2006 after a former organization, The Squirrel Lake Team, founded by Buie-Jackson in 2003, which adopted Squirrel Lake Park in Matthews.

HAWK also hosts the Earth Day festival each year in Matthews, and has adopted parks, working to get those parks and other places in town established as wildlife habitats, including Buie-Jackson’s own backyard.

To be recognized as a wildlife habitat, the four basic elements of a habitat must be provided: food, water, shelter, and places to raise young.

The organization has helped to establish all the schools in Matthews as wildlife habitats, as well as other public spaces, and even the entire town of Matthews itself is designated as a community wildlife habitat, of which only 64 exist in the U.S.

“We hear all the gloom and doom of what’s going on in the world and global warming and climate change, and it’s (HAWK) just a nice place where you can get your hands dirty, you can get involved and act locally for what is a global problem,” Buie-Jackson said.

HAWK only meets September through May, the first Tuesday of each month, but hosts different wildlife-themed events during the summer.

The organization will be hosting a Frog Walk on June 8. HAWK will lead a walk, along with a naturalist, where the group will start out by identifying birds and different wildlife before the sun sets, and the frogs start calling. The naturalist will teach the group to identify the frogs by their calls, will catch them with a net to show the group, and release them.

On July 27, HAWK will host a Moth Night, at Squirrel Lake Park in Matthews, where the group will hang a white sheet, put moth bait around, and light up the sheet to attract moths, butterflies, and other flying insects.

Environmental managers from Mecklenburg County will be in attendance to give a presentation on different moths found in the area, and once the moths begin to fly to the sheet, they will try and catalogue all the different types of moths and butterflies that live in the area.

“It’s an opportunity to be a citizen scientist, because everybody is going to be helping catch these moths and helping to identify them and catalogue them for Mecklenburg County,” Buie-Jackson said.

All events are free and open to the public. HAWK meets the first Tuesday of each month September through May, at 7 pm at the Matthews Community Center. For more information, visit www.habitatsteward.org, call 704-814-0877, or email HAWKNCWF@gmail.com.