The explosive growth of the Catawba River Basin over the last two decades has brought big changes to the ecosystem surrounding the river and its lakes, forcing many native species to adapt and thrive under less than ideal conditions.
The North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF), an organization dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitats, saw an opportunity to create community advocates and scientists while improving those conditions.
“We wanted to provide direct hands-on conservation by community constituents that make a difference for wildlife and habitats and help to foster awareness and appreciation for that wildlife,” said NCWF Executive Director Tim Gestwicki.
The group, with the help of a $6,000 Cultural Project grant from ASC, built 60 coverboards for amphibians and reptiles, 40 warbler nest boxes, five osprey nesting platforms and recruited volunteer -scientists- to take up data collection.
The group is also planning nine presentations to area garden clubs and church and youth groups to educate them about the project.
“There’s a big value to having programs constituents can see,” Gestwicki said. “When you-re able to do these tangible things you-re able to bring people into the conservation network.”
Osprey populations along the Catawba River, almost non-existent in the 1990s, have been steadily on the increase. With rapid development along the river however, Gestwicki said the birds have taken to nesting on top of pontoon boats and other unnatural places. The nesting poles give the osprey a more natural and permanent setting to nest. He said the nest boxes for the warblers serve a similar purpose.
Gestwicki said the coverboards for reptiles and amphibians will allow the group to study the largely undocumented species that make their home on the Catawba.
NCWF will be working with constituent organizations from Matthews to Lake Norman. Gestwicki said NCWF is looking forward to seeing the results of the project and increasing community engagement.
“Our goal with this project is to make a difference for wildlife and habitat,” Gestwicki said. “And we want to help people be part of that positive change.”