The following letter is a response from Audubon International’s Executive Director, Doug Bechtel, regarding an article which appeared in the Fall issue of Links Magazine, 2015 

As an organization which is embraced by the golf industry and its leaders, we at Audubon International were surprised that Links Magazine editors would re-print a sensationalized article about nuisance species control on golf courses without seeking verification on the facts from Audubon International.  We consider many of our goals aligned with Links Magazine, such as supporting the game and the industry, promoting great courses, and improving golf’s image among the general public.

The article (in the Fall 2015 edition, “The Other Audubon”), first posted on revealnews.org’s website, suggests that Audubon International somehow allows or endorses depredation of federally protected migratory birds.  This is misleading and inaccurate. While most of the article about nuisance species control on golf courses adequately describes depredation of migratory waterfowl on golf courses, we want to set the record straight on a few points. 

Audubon International has no authority nor jurisdiction over depredation actions on golf courses.  We can neither allow nor prohibit such activities; we have no role to play in those decisions.  In fact, we advise courses to exhaust all options prior to seeking federal and state permits as a last resort for nuisance species control. 

We are proud of our reputation among golf superintendents, club managers, and golf course owners. Audubon International has been publicly acknowledged for advancing good change to the game of golf.  Our work has helped approximately 3,000 golf courses in 30 countries save water, improve wildlife habitat, and reduce chemical use.

We are a non-regulatory non-profit environmental membership organization whose mission-based program activities include advising golf courses and other facilities about how to reduce their impact on nature.  All our members must demonstrate wildlife habitat improvement in order to meet our certification standards.

The cover headline “Revealed:  The Audubon Scam” is disparaging and undermines the good work Audubon International has done to help golf course managers improve their environmental management and elevate the sustainability of golf courses.  Our work with golf has also improved golf’s image and discredited the perception that golf is “bad for nature.”  Our pioneering efforts have promoted best practices in golf course management and have improved community relations through our rigorous certification and education programs.

In addition to self-reporting on best practices to achieve certification, all golf courses in our voluntary program are regularly monitored by independent reviewers to ensure they continue to improve their management over time.  This independent validation is critical to ensure credibility in the certification process.  When achieving our high standards, we publicly celebrate our certified members who serve as role models for sustainable golf.

Audubon International is not a golf organization.  We are an environmental non-profit that works with multiple industries to improve their environmental management.  Golf does represent the majority of our membership.  Golf courses in our program pay annual fees to support our voluntary mission-based educational programs.  Payment for this service aligns with industry standards for organizations performing third-party independent review. 

The vast majority of our member courses pays less than $300 per year for our education services, and we don’t charge any additional fee for certification.  This is to ensure all courses can receive equal benefit and so that we honor our non-profit, charitable, mission-driven service model.  Our Signature program charges a higher amount and focuses on assisting golf course owners, builders, and architects build a new golf course under strict sustainability and environmental guidelines.  Those fees goes to support staff consultation time; development and review of highly detailed natural resource management plans; and multiple on site-review of golf course development.  Audubon International does not profit from membership fees; all income from fees support our efforts to achieve our mission-based environmental education with golf facilities.

Finally, we are proud that many of the best golf courses in the world are Audubon International members.  In the Links Great Courses list, 50% of the US courses are members of Audubon International.  Many of the courses regularly promoted in Links’ features stories are our members.  At a time when golf needs independent verification of the benefits golf provides to healthy people and communities, we feel we have a positive role to play to ensure the game thrives in a sustainable way. 

Doug Bechtel
Executive Director, Audubon International
doug@auduboninternational.org
518-767-9051  x114
Troy, NY

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