Why still a disconnect between government agencies and Audubon International on golf courses?

eric von hofen and hawk on the hunt
In the last six months my golf course, like many others, has had its share of inspections from state and local government agencies. We all have been there. We see the white truck or beat up old car with a faded city seal on the door come pulling up.  The truck usually parks right next to your cart outside of your office.  You can’t get away and you start thinking about your next move. Should I duck below the window, grab the land line phone (because that means it’s a really important call), wait for them to come in, or should I walk out to give them a warm welcome?  This all happens in seconds. Time to be a man and welcome your guest.  I usually break the ice by asking their name, shaking their hand and asking which agency they are with.  Today it’s DERM, Tuesday it was Zoning, last Friday it was HRS, a month ago it was Fire.  I checked my messages that morning and I had one from the Pesticide inspector and another one from Water Management asking for my water test results. Not one of these agencies knows what the other one is doing or what they are monitoring. After a few minutes of looking around the building the questions start.  What do you do in this building?  What kind of business is this?  Do you serve food?  After a few answers from me, the inspector du jour begins to hone in on what he or she needs to inspect.  My next move is to arm myself with the “Best Management Practices” book and then I let the games begin.   They don’t know what the book is and have never seen it.  As for the Audubon programs, the inspectors have never heard of them either.  This is what just blows me away.  “Audubon International, the bird people?”, they say.  After so many years of helping bring awareness to protecting the environment, how can you not know about the Audubon programs?

Audubon International logo

I started wondering, “How are these capital-intense environmental programs functioning in todays economy?”  The governmental agencies don’t pay attention to them, home builders can’t use them to sell homes because no one is buying and some existing golf courses can’t pay the fees to keep the program up to date.  Superintendents can’t get the members to participate in the bird watches or nature walks because many of these baby boomers have to go back to work.  Audubon International has cut the budget for site inspections and employee travel. This is all a shame because we really need to protect the environment, and I think we have missed the mark and have made it hard to make everyone happy. We need to take some time next year to focus on educating people and government agencies that we are stewards of the environment.  Audubon International needs to reconnect with it’s members, build bridges with the agencies and make it easier to keep programs current.  Reduce the volume of required paper work, and the time it takes to complete it, and I bet the programs will become reborn.

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About eric j.

Comments

  1. As the Program Director for the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses (ACSP), I read your blog with interest. I am sensitive to what you are saying about local authorities not being familiar with the program, and this has been something that we have been working on. It’s frustrating because I know the hard work that the FL GCSA, and especially Joel Jackson, has done to get the word out about the BMPs, our programs, and the environmental stewardship of golf courses in general.

    I would like to correct some of your statements, however. We have not cut budgets for site inspections or employee travel. While it is true that some very low budget courses have dropped out due to not getting the $200 annual membership fee approved, we have had more join because many of our recommendations save the course money while helping them frame the management changes in terms of environmental stewardship. I am proud to say that we just certified the 100th golf course in Florida with many more courses in the pipeline. And there are some government agencies that not only recognize the program, but reward golf courses for participation. For example, the Philadelphia Water Department recognizes the ACSP as a stormwater management program and reduces stormwater management fees for participating properties.

    There is always room for improvement, and I am currently compiling the data from surveys we sent to all the ACSP members. I already have some changes that I am planning based on the results so far. Audubon International is proud of our relationship with the golf industry. The program turns 20 in 2011 and we look forward to many years to come.

    Joellen Lampman
    Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Programs Director

  2. Joellen,

    Thank you for you comments and insight. They are very helpful and always best to have the facts. I hope more local agencies read this and understand how important it is to work together. They need to stop looking at golf courses as a easy target to create revenue. You guys are on top of it and are responding to the market conditions. Happy early birthday and keep fighting the fight. All the best to your next 100 courses.

    Eric J. von Hofen
    Turfunderground.com

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