People have been certifying their properties in Charlotte as Community Wildlife Habitats for as many as 30 years under the National Wildlife Federation guidelines. The recognition program honors community efforts to create green landscapes and buildings, improve the quality of air and water, and restore wildlife habitats.
Among the first people in Charlotte to certify their property were Wan and Edwin Marsh, who certified their backyard about 30 years ago after equipping it with shrubs for cover and food sources, bird baths and houses for nesting spots.
By 2015, Charlotte’s number of certified Community Wildlife Habitats grew to 900. The driving force behind that growth was the volunteer-led organization CROWN — or Charlotte: Reconnecting Ourselves With Nature — which was created in 2013 to bring awareness to the status of Charlotte’s wildlife and their habitat. CROWN helped certify individual properties and launch community awareness programs.
CROWN took the bigger step to certify the City of Charlotte as a Community Wildlife Habitat in 2015. At the time, Charlotte was the third largest city in the U.S. to receive the designation.
As CROWN President Ernie McLaney explained, the city’s certification is an accumulation of efforts, since NWF requires communities to host educational outreach projects and to establish a certain number of neighborhood, school and common area wildlife habitats based on the size of the population.
In 2015, the requirement was reached with the help of more than 40 neighborhoods achieving certification, including properties on Park Road, Fairview Road and Cameron Wood Drive; and five schools achieving certification including Selwyn, Huntingtowne Farms and Beverly Woods elementary schools.
When Charlotte joined the list of Community Wildlife Habitats, nearby Lake Norman, Matthews and Concord were already included.
Today, Charlotte, which has been recertified each year, contains 1,121 Certified Wildlife Habitats on record with the NWF.
That includes the Golf Club at Ballantyne, which has been a certified Community Wildlife Habitat since 2014. According to Christina Thigpen, vice president of marketing and communications with Northwood Office, the Club’s golf course and the Ballantyne Corporate Park property hold 60 Eastern Bluebird nesting boxes to offer a safe environment for those birds, among other elements needed by wildlife.
As for benefits, first assistant superintendent Erik Kennelly said, “The Golf Club at Ballantyne provides a large area of land for animals to live and use, as well as a pleasant, pretty golf course for golfers to enjoy.”
The CROWN website shows a goal to grow Charlotte’s list of Certified Wildlife Habitats to 2,000.
“We can’t keep paving over our natural habitat,” McLaney told the Observer. “We’re trying to put back a little of what’s been taken by development.”
How to certify your backyard, balcony and other green spaces
To certify your yard, balcony garden, schoolyard, work landscape, or roadside green space, you just need to meet the requirements for food (like pollen or a bird feeder), water (like a birdbath), cover (like shrubs or a wall), places to raise young (like mature trees or a nesting box) and sustainable practices (like composting or capturing rain water). See the checklist here.
A fee of $20 for your application supports NWF programs.
Bonus: If you apply by Sept. 30, you could win a $25 gift certificate to a nearby nursery.
Photos: Katie Toussaint, David T. Foster III/Observer, Erik Kennelly