Golf Course Management

MAR 2017

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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34 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 03.17 An era of environmental progress Over the past few decades, golf course man- agement and environmental stewardship have become mutually inclusive. While not an over - night transformation, we've been on a steady, progressive shift from managing turf while coexisting with the environment to becoming environmental champions. Up-and-coming superintendents may not even know of a time when maintaining turf was not as important as protecting the environment. Today, environ - mental stewardship attaches to every facet of our industry — education, architecture, equip - ment, resource management, chemistry (and the list goes on). Having worked in golf course maintenance for more than three decades, I can attest that this was not always the case. Many of today's environmental laws were based on congressional acts from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. During that period, environmental disasters and their impacts on human health were frequent headlines. Under the Nixon administration, the 1970s became known as the "environmental decade," with the passage of landmark legislation such as the Na - tional Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the creation of the EPA. The Federal Insecti - cide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) underwent major revisions and was placed under the authority of the EPA. Regulations on pollution to soil, water and air required indus - tries to clean up their operations or face civil or criminal liability. By the 1980s, golf was beginning to feel the effects of those major congressional acts. I remember the anxiety of an industry being forced into change. In the '80s, the EPA en - forced FIFRA by removing environmentally persistent and carcinogenic products from the market. A superintendent once told me about how just one application of chlordane (an insecticide banned by the EPA in 1983) worked in the soil to suppress insects for five years. More environmental regulations aimed at protecting human health and the environ - ment meant that change was constant. Un- derground storage tanks had to be removed. Swamps were becoming protected wetlands. Hosing off equipment near a creek was no lon - ger convenient — it was pollution. At the time, it was uncertain what would fill the void left by the products and practices that were being extinguished by regulation. As it turned out, though, the golf industry would respond by be - coming leaner and cleaner than I could have ever imagined. While golf was quietly changing for the better, the building boom of the 1990s made it a high-visibility target for critics. Neg - ative public perception flourished, casting golf courses as destroyers of habitat, contaminators of water and overusers of pesticides. Despite the fact that golf courses have a much lower environmental impact compared with other commercial uses of land, many of these unin - formed perceptions persist today. Although the critics were fierce, the 1990s saw an unprecedented growth in environ - mental initiatives that gave superintendents the support to carry out and the opportunity to prove their commitment to environmen - tal stewardship. Superintendents began to embrace their role as environmental stewards and demonstrate their achievements through voluntary programs such as the Audubon Co - operative Sanctuary Program for Golf (ACSP). Founded in 1987, the ACSP pioneered the con - cept that golf courses can be built and man- aged in a manner that protects and enhances the environment. In 1993, GCSAA established the Environ - mental Leaders in Golf Awards (ELGA), which annually recognize superintendents for out - standing environmental stewardship. In 1996, the USGA published "Environmental Prin - ciples for Golf Courses in the United States," a document that set forth standards for plan - ning, siting, design, construction and mainte- nance of facility operations. Certainly worth mentioning but too numerous to name are all the other nonprofit and for-profit organizations (environment) that were created to and continue to support golf courses in their quest to protect and pro - mote environmental health and human safety. The new millennium ushered in a time in which industry partners provided goods and services mindful of the environment. The "greening" of all things golf was not just a mar - keting tactic, but a real change in how prod- ucts were designed. Organic fertilizers are ef- fective and formulated for easier use. Pesticides target only specific pests and are designed with lower residual and active ingredients. Irrigation performance and technology are constantly advancing to deliver more efficient water use. Architects and superintendents reduce the amount of maintained turf and design with the environment in mind. Equipment man - ufacturers develop effective hybrid mowers and decrease emissions from larger mowers by complying with Tier 4 regulations. Ultimately, the industry has learned how to continually re - search and develop products and processes that improve course conditions while reducing neg - ative environmental impacts. Today might be a good day to pause and appreciate just how far we've come as an indus - try and as professionals. But don't spend too much time admiring our accomplishments — I think we're just getting started. I'm look - ing forward to seeing what you all accomplish during the next 30 years. Pamela C. Smith, CGCS, is an attorney and the director of agronomy for a large city. She is a 26-year member of GCSAA. Pamela C. Smith, CGCS greenskeeper99@yahoo.com Not just neighbors: Golf courses and nature have been on a journey from mere coexistence to mutual benefit. Photo by Pamela C. Smith

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