Suburban sprawl may have eliminated a lot of living space for wildlife, but homeowners can provide some breathing room for wild animals by transforming their backyards into eco-friendly habitats.
That’s according to Carol Buie-Jackson, the first-ever female chairman of the N.C. Wildlife Federation.
Buie-Jackson, who addressed the federation’s Albemarle Conservation and Wildlife chapter in Elizabeth City Tuesday night, said the problem starts when people begin cutting down trees and removing topsoil to put down sidewalks and sod for houses and big-box stores.
“We get left with a very sterile environment, where we take all of that organic bio-mass out of the area,” Buie-Jackson said. “It’s not providing anything for wildlife.”
High-maintenance lawns in particular have a heavy impact on the environment, as the grass continually needs chemicals and water, Buie-Jackson said. In addition, the emissions from operating an older, gas-powered lawn mower for one hour is the equivalent of driving a 1992 car approximately 650 miles, she said.
A homeowner can make their lawn eco-friendly, Buie-Jackson said, by creating a natural space on part of it that includes leaves, mulch, shrubs and trees. Putting in birdbaths and feeders can also help.
Buie-Jackson, who owns a bird store, is a big fan of the feathered creatures. During her presentation at The Villa Restaurant Tuesday, she showed snapshots and video of her backyard in Mecklenburg County to demonstrate how her home now serves as a gathering place for more than 80 different species of birds.
“Whenever you walk out our back door, it’s an explosion of activity,” Buie-Jackson said. “We open the door and the squirrels are running and the birds are flying and the bunnies are hopping.”
The key to creating a successful eco-friendly habitat for wild animals is making sure you have areas of shelter as well as sources of food and water, she said. Having something designed to hold water is critically important, because wildlife always need water.
Including native plants in the habitat is also important, because plants provide a range of benefits to wildlife, Buie-Jackson said. Such plants need little maintenance and don’t need chemicals, she said.
During her visit in Elizabeth City Tuesday, Buie-Jackson also presented the Albemarle chapter of the federation with a $200 check for the Dream Hunting and Fishing Program.
The money matches a similar amount raised by the local chapter for the program, which helps children with physical challenges or life-threatening illnesses enjoy the outdoors.
A resident of Matthews, Buie-Jackson was elected the first female chairman of the N.C. Wildlife Federation last autumn. The federation is the leading advocate for wildlife and wildlife habitats in the state.
Buie-Jackson said her own love of nature dates back to when she was growing up in northern Florida and her mother let her keep squirrels, as well as dogs and cows, as pets.
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