Wildlife certification has its perks

Mason: Couple working to connect with the natural world

  • Miki Colliers horses graze in the front yard of her Mason home on the cold afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 11.
  • New Wildlife Habitat in the back woods of Mason.
  • The Colliers log cabin, which they purchased in Jan. 2013, sits in the middle of the newly certified wildlife habitat in Mason.
  • New Wildlife Habitat in the back woods of Mason.
  • New Wildlife Habitat in the back woods of Mason.
  • New Wildlife Habitat in the back woods of Mason.
  • The yard of the Collier property in Mason covered in vibrant shades of red and yellow during the Fall of 2013.

The National Wildlife Federation has certified a new wildlife habitat in Mason. It joins more than 150,000 certified habitats nationwide that serve as a symbol of passion for the outdoors.

“Providing a home for wildlife in our communities is a demonstration of a healthy and active ecosystem. There is no more rewarding way to stay connected to nature right outside your door,” said David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation, in a statement announcing the certification.

Last January, Sargeant and Miki Collier purchased a two-bedroom log cabin tucked away in the woods of Mason. “When we got married, we always said that we wanted to live in a log cabin, it finally happened,” said Miki Collier, after 12 years.

The couple moved from Temple to live in the Mason cabin built in 1985, which sits on five acres of land. “This house is much smaller. We downsized the house, and upsized the land,” said Miki.

The couple’s three horses, five dogs and three cats are just a few of the animals that call the habitat home. Deer, turkey gangs, a black bear and various species of birds are regular visitors to the Collier property.

The property is also littered with fruit-bearing trees, including dogwood, cherry and apple trees, with plans to plant more according to Collier. These trees provide both food and shelter for the wildlife. A stream that runs year-round can be found on the left side of the property.

For more than 40 years, the Certified Wildlife Habitat program has been helping people take action on behalf of wildlife. The program enlists homeowners, businesses, schools, parks and other institutions seeking to make their communities wildlife friendly. The company’s mission is to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for future generations. In order to gain certification, a habitat must provide food, water, cover and a place to raise young for the surrounding wildlife. Owners of certified habitats receive a personalized certificate, as well as membership with the federation, and a year’s subscription to National Wildlife Magazine.

No tax breaks or other financial benefits come from creating a certified habitat, rather the habitats serve as showcases of environmental dedication, something Miki wishes more people would get involved in. “If more people [joined], that would be great. It’s a really good program, it’s nice to support them.” Miki smiled, adding, “There is no end to the amount of critters we have, it’s really cool. We love living in the woods, and the woodland creatures who allow us to share this wonderful area.”

Miki has always been a nature fanatic. “I used to run away with my German Shepherd constantly when I was 7,” she recalled. Her kids, now grown up and living in Boston, received bird houses from their mom for Christmas gifts. “I’m not a house person. I’m outside constantly, as you can tell,” Collier said laughing.

Her outdoor interests include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking and riding her horses. During the months of October, November and December, Sargeant and Miki head to northern New Hampshire with their dogs to hunt woodcock and partridge. Sargeant is an avid hunter and works as a sporting art dealer, selling artwork that depicts outdoor activities, such as hunting and horseback riding. Miki works at Dover Saddlery in Littleton, Mass.

When Miki is not outside, her time is spent making jewelry, writing about nature, and taking photos: “Mushrooms are my favorite [to photograph], they are beautiful year-round.”

As far as future plans for the property, along with planting more trees, Miki plans to have a rose garden and to clear the backyard out a bit more, to provide more room for roaming wildlife. Collier loves all animals and would like to see fox, owls and bats visit the property. “I love having more and more birds, as long as they aren’t sparrows,” she said.

The Colliers’ previous property in Temple was also a certified wildlife habitat. Collier said she has been a member of the National Wildlife Federation for as long as she can remember. “More people ought to realize they can [be certified], it’s not hard to do.”

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