February 13, 2012

Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program

There are without a doubt a lot of myths in today's society about the negative impacts that golf courses have on the environment.  Almost all of them are untrue.  In a world that focuses more and more on the "green" aspect of almost everything, there are a number of golf organizations that are working together to get our business segment on board. 

Audubon International has put together a program with the help of the USGA called the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP).  Golf courses that choose to participate start by filling out an environmental self assessment.  The ACSP then makes certain recommendations the course must enact in order to attain certification as an Audubon Certified Sanctuary.  Areas of evaluation include:  environmental planning, wildlife management, chemical use reduction and safety, water use reduction, water quality management, and community outreach.

While creating an environmentally and ecologically sound golf course is the right thing to do, it is only a realistic goal if it makes business sense as well.  Fortunately, a lot of the initiatives that the ACSP recommends are things that we are already implementing here at GFCC.  As one may (or may not) expect, a lot of environmental initiatives also tend to go hand in hand with the efficient operation of a golf course.  It kind of has the tendency to be "less is more".  All the tangibles that tend to go into the operation of a golf course (fuel, fertilizer, water, pesticides) all cost money to utilize.  The ACSP seeks to find the balance of using only the amount of those that are necessary to obtain the desired level of aesthetics and playability of the golf course, and not an ounce more. 

A perfect example of this was the amount of fertilizer applied we applied to the golf course this year.  Compared to 2008, 2009, and 2010, we used approximately 40-50 percent less fertilizer in 2011.  Did anyone notice that the course wasn't very green or that the turf was unhealthy this past summer compared to years past?  I wasn't here in past years to make the comparison, but my guess is that probably no one noticed a difference.  That amount of fertilizer saved us approximately $7,000 this year, and also saved a countless amount of nitrogen and phophorus from going into the Red River.  And guess what?  Fuel usage dropped as well (less fertilizer, less top growth, less mowing!)  And to go along with that, less mowing means....less labor used to run the mowers! 

The above example is only a small portion of the types of things we can do to not only improve our environmental performance, but to improve the bottom line.  I made the decision to enter the GFCC into the ACSP program this winter for the simple fact that since we are on the path toward doing all the right things environmentally anyway, we might as well gain a little recognition for it.  There will certainly be a fair amount of work to go into gaining certification, but most of that will simply involve a lot of recordkeeping and documentation and will involve no real output of financial resources.  I really feel that in the long run, involvement in this program will continue to help the course become a more efficient operation.

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program has certified over 2,000 golf courses across 24 different countries around the world.  The neat part about this, is that there isn't ONE single course certified in the state of North Dakota.  We could literally claim to be the first!  Everyone involved with the GFCC knows that without a doubt we lay claim to a very rare oasis in the vast agricultural plains of the greater Red River valley.  Let's do our part to take care of it and let everyone else know in our community how special the place really is.

Also, I've attached a neat video about all the wonderful things turfgrass does in our world.

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