HAWK: keeping Mecklenburg for the animals


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.

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Becoming a certified Community Wildlife Habitat

The Town of Matthews is working with Habitat and Wildlife Keepers to become a certified Community Wildlife Habitat.  Matthews will become the fourth community in N.C. to become certified.  Weaverville, Montreat, and Lake Norman are already certified.

HAWK is a chapter of National Wildlife Federation.  This chapter, founded by Carol Buie-Jackson, now the N.C. Wildlife Federation vice president, was the first of its kind in the country, and North Carolina is the only state supported by a chapter system.

The Matthews initiative includes the zip codes 28104, 28105, and 28106.  Communities have five years after registering, and Matthews has one year left.  Certification works on a point system, and Matthews has only 56 points left.  Homes add one point, schools five points, and businesses and parks are three points.

Butler High School, Crestdale Middle School, and Matthews Elementary School are certified.  HAWK is now asking daycare centers and places of worship if they will participate.  The Four Mile Creek Greenway in Matthews is certified, as well as Squirrel Lake Park.

Residents can certify their homes by filling out a NWF application at gardenforwildlife.org.  Property must provide food, water, shelter, and a place to raise young for wildlife.  It is best to provide native plants and trees, as they are better sources for native wildlife.  Water can be as simple as a birdbath.  Birdhouses, shrubs, brush piles, and snags can be places for wildlife to raise young.  Certification costs $20, and a certification sign can be purchased for $30.

Jill Palmer, HAWK president, said Matthews town representatives have been supportive of this effort.  Having the town certified will “recognize the community as a place that cares about wildlife.”

“We’re pretty nature- and eco-friendly in Matthews,” said Palmer.  “This just gives us that right to say this is a community that cares about wildlife.”  She said certification will be attractive to residents and businesses looking for a place to settle down.

Palmer expects HAWK to eventually branch out beyond Matthews into surrounding areas like Mint Hill.  If Mint Hill residents or businesses have questions about certification or general wildlife concerns, HAWK will gladly answer them.

“We do it because we love nature, we love animals.  We care about the environment,” said Palmer.

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