In her second career as an environmental educator, Julie Higgie shares her love of nature with others. The former Girl Scout, who has hiked the Appalachian Trail, spreads the message to reclaim habitat and live in harmony with wildlife.
Trained as a habitat steward by the National Wildlife Federation and certified by the N.C. Wildlife Federation, Higgie answers questions, visits yards, helps homeowners certify their property, teaches classes and speaks about ongoing projects.
Her yard is a certified wildlife habitat. Any property that has food, water, cover and a place to raise young can be certified. Owners also must use sustainable gardening techniques.
After checking qualifications, she realized her property had those things. So she took pictures and applied.
Higgie, a member of Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists, said certification is a mission of the organization. It's a way for the community to become aware of saving habitat.
"Each of us, one yard at the time, can help green up the world," she said.
Like people, wildlife need food and water. Feeders are a supplemental source, but plants supply basic dietary needs. Native plants are best, but they can coexist with other varieties. Higgie's landscape is a mix of native and traditional Southern vegetation.
Standing at a window, she observed activities at a bird feeding station. Binoculars and identification books were piled on a table within reach.
She pointed to a butterfly bath: a saucer filled with sand, rocks and a little water. A butterfly does not drink water; it sticks its proboscis into mud or sand to extract liquid.
People living at the lake may think birdbaths are unnecessary, but songbirds prefer a shallow container and do not drink from the lake. Higgie recommends refilling birdbaths often on hot days.
Birds and animals need shelter from the elements and hiding places from predators. Amphibians and reptiles prefer rocks; other species like evergreen or deciduous plants and trees.
Of course, wildlife need places to raise their young.
Higgie suggests erecting nest boxes to replace trees destroyed by construction. Small brush piles scattered around the yard attract families.
Taking care of the landscape is a direct link to the sustainability of wildlife and people. Use of pesticides and herbicides is discouraged; organic gardening is encouraged..
Sprays that kill bugs will destroy all of them, including butterflies. Alternatives exist. For example, creating low areas in the landscape will attract frogs and toads, natural zappers that eat mosquitoes.
Gardeners can select plants that attract beneficial insects.
Certification signs raise awareness and spread word about "working together to maintain the balance of life."
"I'm thrilled that people are realizing we need to share the world with other creatures. We're not in this alone," said Higgie. "We need to make sure our children and grandchildren will get to enjoy chipmunks, butterflies and all the other little creatures."
Learn more about the certification process by contacting Higgie at 704-877-4788.