Charlotte named Community for Wildlife; south Charlotte leads pack

South Charlotte Weekly

National Wildlife Federation recognizes 41 south Charlotte neighborhoods

Both squirrels and barn owls thrive in McLaney’s backyard habitat. Photo courtesy of Ernie McLaney

Both squirrels and barn owls thrive in McLaney’s backyard habitat. Photo courtesy of Ernie McLaney

Several hundred people celebrated Charlotte being named as a “Community Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) at a free festival called “Charlotte Naturally” at Marshall Park on Saturday, May 2.

Community Wildlife Habitat is an NWF national recognition program for neighborhoods, towns, cities and counties for efforts to improve and restore green spaces and buildings, air and water quality, sustain wildlife habitats and improve the wellbeing of wildlife inhabitants.

Charlotte is the third largest city certified as a community wildlife habitat and the largest certified city east of the Mississippi, according to a new release. Concord, Matthews and Lake Norman also were previously certified as community wildlife habitats.

Charlotte’s certification came after 19 months of planning and hours of volunteer work committed to the designation by Charlotte’s local nonprofit chapter of the N.C. Wildlife Federation – Charlotte Reconnecting Ourselves with Nature (CROWN).

“That certification is an accumulation of a lot of people’s efforts,” CROWN President Ernie McLaney, a south Charlotte resident said. “Even though it’s a lot of work, it doesn’t feel like work – it’s a passion.”

McLaney said NWF requires communities to establish a minimum number of neighborhood, school and common area wildlife habitats based on human population size, as well as complete several educational outreach projects.

He said CROWN supported the increase of Charlotte area habitats from 600 to 900 certified wildlife habitats. South Charlotte neighborhoods, schools, churches and businesses contributed to the increase.

Forty-one neighborhoods in south Charlotte, such as Wordsworth Lane, Eaglebrook Drive, Carmel Forest Drive, Park Road, Fairview Road and Cameron Wood Drive house properties that are certified wildlife habitats.

Jane and Ron Newton recently received recognition for having their yard certified as a wildlife habitat. The NWF applauded the couple’s efforts to create a garden space that improves habitats for birds, butterflies, frogs and other wildlife by providing natural food sources, clean water and shelter.

“We both enjoy watching the birds and providing a safe, nurturing environment for them,” said Jane Newton in a news release. “Ron’s redesign of our yard to make it more level for the grandchildren to play in, and to make it more inviting to wildlife, gives us both something to enjoy as well as helps us to be greener citizens.”

Five schools also became certified, including Selwyn, Huntingtowne Farms and Beverly Woods elementary schools, Randolph Middle School and St. Gabriel Catholic schools – as well as several churches and businesses such as Trinity Presbyterian Church, Atrium Animal Hospital, Christ Lutheran Church and Wilora Lake Lodge.

Tim Gestwicki, CEO of NC Wildlife Federation, said he was overjoyed his hometown received the accolade, but he stressed the benefits of the community’s hard work doesn’t solely lie in the certification, but primarily exist in the consequences of those efforts.

“Bald eagles are nesting in Piper Glen and we have the largest barn owl population in an urban city,” he said.

Both McLaney and Gestwicki hope to build on the momentum of the recent celebration by encouraging more people to get involved.

“This is just the beginning,” said McLaney. “We want to share what we are doing – gardening, planting and bordering – to continue preserving green spaces in Charlotte and we cannot do it by ourselves.”

“As much development as we are seeing in North Carolina and urban areas, its incumbent on us to protect every yard and every patch of milkweed to ensure wildlife habitats for species such as monarch butterflies and migratory birds,” Gestwicki said.

Visit CROWN’s website at for more information on how to create a wildlife habitat.

This entry was posted in Health and Wellness, Home and Garden, Human Interest, Newspaper, Philanthropy, South Charlotte Weekly, Traditional Journalism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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