Blog

Here you can find all the latest Audubon International news! From the great environmental efforts of our members, to where we will be next, to helpful tips you can apply at your golf course, you can find it all here.
  • 10/30/2012 2:30 PM | Anonymous
    Things at Audubon International have been especially busy (and exciting) over the past few months, and there are a seemingly endless number of “blog worthy” topics to write about. That said, I thought it would be worthwhile to take the time to highlight one of the important regional efforts (actually, in many ways it’s more of a national effort) – the America’s Great Watershed Initiative (AGWI) – that our organization is participating in. 


    AGWI is a diverse collaboration of stakeholders looking for comprehensive, commonsense solutions that will allow society to sustainably manage the vast and complex natural resources of the MRB while meeting the growing list of demands that we collectively place on this watershed. To accomplish this broad goal, AGWI is attempting to bring the full range of issues, ideas, and stakeholders to bear. In contrast to single sector/purpose advocacy, AGWI seeks to build and implement a vision based on collaboration, goal integration, and mutually beneficial outcomes.The Mississippi River Basin (MRB), which collectively covers more than 40% of the continental U.S. land mass, is home to many nationally significant assets. These include navigation channels, levees, dikes, public lands, facilities, military installations, parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments and museums. Large-scale issues like protracted droughts and floods, altered flow regimes, pollution and nutrient loading, sedimentation, climate change, urban sprawl and diffuse land development, agricultural production, demand for freshwater resources, threats to native biodiversity including exotic species, and other environmental stressors collectively make protecting and managing natural resources in the MRB a complex challenge. These challenges have formed the driving force behind AGWI.

    Rather than simply “reinvent the wheel,” AGWI is attempting to promote sustainable natural resource management in the MRB by building on strong public and private sector leadership already present in many of the MRB’s tributary watersheds. AGWI seeks to link and augment these existing efforts, creating a broader partnership that can serve as a unified voice for the whole system. The philosophy here is that we need a “multi-sector” coalition in order to effectively address issues that span multiple regions and issues such as energy, transportation, water quality and floodplain management.

    Last month, AGWI organizers invited elected officials, leaders of industry, government agencies, the non-profit community, and academia from throughout the MRB to participate in a two-day interactive stakeholder summit in St. Louis, Missouri. Several hundred stakeholders – including Audubon International – participated in the forum. Attendees came from each of the MRB’s six major sub-basins (Upper Mississippi River, Lower Mississippi River, Missouri River, Ohio River, Tennessee River, and Arkansas-White River).


    In addition to using the summit to officially launch AGWI, the diverse group explored collaborative ways to address geographic, institutional and issue-based barriers (as presented in a video that can be viewed here). More specifically, participants engaged in the following while at the summit: 

    • Reviewed options for establishing AGWI as an enduring organization that will connect basin-wide stakeholders and institutions and harness best science to create a shared vision as well as a more integrated management system within the watershed.
    • Reviewed a sample ‘report card’ of river health to help assess the condition of the Mississippi River over time.
    • Articulated key messages about the economic, social and ecological importance of the Mississippi River and its basin–particularly how management changes are needed to protect this nationally and internationally important resource in the long-term.

    The summit itself represented a small – but very important – step in what will undoubtedly be a long journey toward a more sustainably managed Mississippi River and its watershed. Naturally, a 200-year vision cannot be achieved in the course of a single two-day stakeholder forum, but I have faith that AGWI will provide a valuable vehicle for facilitating significant long-term changes in the environmental and socioeconomic health of the MRB. Audubon International will continue committing its own resources and organizational capacity in support of this effort, and also do what we can to ensure that our own award-winning environmental education and certification programs advance AGWI’s goals.

  • 10/29/2012 2:50 PM | Deleted user
    There comes a time when a property has been evaluated, low use areas are naturalized, the property is re-evaluated, and more areas are naturalized. This process might, and probably should, occur numerous times. There comes the point, however, that naturalization is maximized and further reducing heavily maintained areas will disturb the purpose of the property, whether it be for golf, burial plots, agriculture, playing fields, etc. At this point, I am often asked, "Now what?".

    While you may not be able to add more habitat acres, there is always the opportunity to enhance existing acreage through the selective removal and addition of plants.

    As an example, last Saturday I had the opportunity to spend the morning at Wildhorse Golf Club in Las Vegas, NV for a Live Green! event. The superintendent, Scott Sutton, had previously converted 55 acres of turfgrass to desert landscape. We took the opportunity of having 75 eager young helpers to remove non-native, high maintenance plants and put in native, pollinator-friendly plants.


    We also went into an area that was mostly crushed granite and added native plants, providing the opportunity for the area to look like a desert wash. The area was further enhanced by the addition of five tons of stone designed to mimic a dried river bed.

    Since removing the turfgrass, Scott and the local Audubon chapter has seen a significant increase in the diversity of birds on the golf course. We will watch closely to see how these latest changes will impact the wildlife on the course.

    To see additional pictures from the event, visit our Facebook page.
  • 10/23/2012 12:18 PM | Nancy Richardson (Administrator)

    Although I have visited Bahia Beach Resort several times over the years, I have never had the opportunity to actually participate in one activity that is on my bucket list.  In addition to rainforest and river, there ar two miles of Atlantic Ocean beach along the northern border of Bahia Beach Resort.  This beach supports sea turtle nests, including my bucket lister, the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), the largest living sea turtle in the world. 

    At Bahia Beach Resort, located near the town of Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, leatherbacks nest on the beach from February to July each year.  In close coordination with the Puerto Rican Department of Natural And Environmental Resources (DNER), resort staff works to protect these magnificent  animals during their early stages of life.  The security and beach maintenance staff share surveillance of the beach.  When a turtle is spotted either nesting, entering or exiting the water, or a nest is found, the DNER office in charge is immediately notified and marks the area. Bahia's staff ropes off that area and then patrols the beach to protect those known nests from predators and from vandalism.  In Puerto Rico, vandalism of the nests is a great threat to the leatherbacks.  The eggs are illegally used as a local delicacy believed to have aphrodisiac properties.  The turtles are also eaten by some of the locals.

    Hatching begins typically in June and ends by August.  The eggs hatch usually during the night, and the hatchlings head directly toward the water.  This is reported to be the most dangerous time in a turtle's life as you can imagine. Once out of the shell, and with their innnate sense of direction, they rush frantically toward the ocean.  This is the time when predators can attack them and unfortunately, when a significant percentage are snatched from the beach and the ocean.   So hatchlings at Bahia Beach are usually accompanied by volunteers lead by the natural resources officer to protect the turtles and assure that they can make it to the ocean free from predation which increases their ultimate chance of survival. 

    Several of the hatchlings often become educational opportunities for resort residents, guests and staff.  During the 2011 season 24 nests were located and more than 1,500 eggs hatched.  To alert St. Regis Hotel guests of the hatching event, each guest is provided information about the nesting season upon arrival and,  if interested, they are updated on the nesting progress. The natural resources officer and security personnel provide guidance and information about the process during educational sessions on the beach to give guests a once in a lifetime opportunity.    

     

    The owners of Bahia Beach Resort are firmly committed to preserving the natural environment and have set aside nearly 65% of the resort land as green space.  They have transplanted more than 4,000 trees and planted more than 62,000 native plants on the property while adding 6,500 linear feet of aquatic plants along pond banks and restored coastal habitat.  I find it very encouraging and actually comforting to know that,  in addition, Bahia Beach is on the forefront of an effort to save such a prehistoric species as the leatherback turtle.  We applaud Bahia Beach's effort to help save a species from extinction.  It is almost as if they stand guard to protect a whole species for the rest of us to experience.  I know I am greatly looking forward to the time when I can experience leatherback nesting, and check this event off of my bucket list. 

     

  • 10/16/2012 5:00 PM | Nancy Richardson (Administrator)

    Many trees have been lost on Audubon International members sites along the coastal areas in the last few years due to the numerous devastating hurricanes and tropical storms in those parts of the country.  Seeing those trees toppled down has been heartbreaking for staff and residents that spent many hours and dollars preserving them during the development process.

    One of the greatest assets of Indian River Club (IRC) in Vero Beach, Florida,  has always been the extensive tree coverage on their nearly 300 acres.  Preservation efforts during project construction incuded moving and transplanting several hundred trees that were endangered by golf course construction or future real estate development.  The impact of the hurricanes and the residual stress to trees resulted in the loss of more than 900 trees over three years, with over 700 trees coming down on three golf holes.  Another lasting impact from these storms has been the attack of Pine Borers on the weakened pine tree population.  Replacing those downed trees, many of which were large specimen trees, proved to be a long and costly process.

    While IRC had an annual budget for replacing the casualties, it would have taken over ten years, without future hurricane/storm loss, to recover from those trees losses.  As replacement moved along slowly, IRC club members began to ask how they could help to accelerate the tree replacement process, which is actually what led to the development of their Tree Program.

    A long range tree replacement plan, headed by Superintendent Mitchell Clark, started with a map designating locations needing trees and the types of trees that were needed.  The plan not only considered what had been lost so far  but also anticipated future losses and needs.  The IRC Tree Program incorporated the following principles:

    1. Provide a plan that works in concert with the Club's long range plan and consistent with their status as a Certified Signature Sanctuary

    2. Maintain a list of trees and plants that are proposed for planting

    3. Designate areas for planting with a palette of approved trees and other plants.

    4. Provide a basis for ongoing funds for the maintenance, health and safety of the trees.

    5. Minimize the effect trees have on greens, fairways and tees while preserving the essential character of the golf course

    6. Systematically remove non-native species of trees and plants from the golf course

    Based on these and other principles, A Master Site Tree Plan was developed and posted so that residents and club members could see where trees were needed.  Then each person wishing to purchase a tree had the opportunity to designate their contriubtion to a certain area. Members then submit a contribution for a specific tree and/or specific location.  Otherwise the contribution will supplement the superintendent's tree budget.

    One important component of the Tree Program at IRC is the dedication of Memorial Trees or Trees of Recognition. Friends and family can make a contribution for the purchase, planting, and a plaque in memory of a loved one. Wishes are expressed for the type and location of these trees and accommodated by the superintendent when possible. Any excess funds from these wishes are held in the Tree Fund and applied for the future maintenance of the tree.  Similarly, trees can be dedicated for any person or group. 

     

    What began as an attempt to replant the tree population to the look that was remembered by IRC members, turned into a wonderful way to remember special people as well.  If you are having difficulty in replacing trees that were downed by recent or past storms or by disease, you might consider trying what the folks at Indian River Club did.  It is very inspiring to ride through that property now and see how many new beautiful, healthy trees are dedicated.  If you are interested in seeing more, go to IRC's website at www.indianriverclub.com

     

     

  • 10/15/2012 9:57 AM | Deleted user
    I had the great pleasure of visiting our only Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary amusement park, Silver Dollar City, in Branson, MO. The park was closed for the day, so the usual squeals, screams, and laughter, as well as the wafting smells of fried dough and burgers, were missing. I recognize that a fully patronized amusement park is going to feel much different than one shared by myself and a number of staff hanging Christmas lights, but the word that kept coming to mind for this property was "intimate". There was an evident passion to preserve the woodlands during development and the shady paths made for an enjoyable walk.

    My favorite part of the park, however, was the ever-present reuse of materials. Everywhere we went in the park, my guide, Sue Noel, who's job, she told me, is in no small part to make the modern attractions look old, pointed out new uses for old items. Everything from wiring to old wagon wheels make it into new and old exhibits. Frying oil is converted to biofuel. They have launched a food composting system and hope to expand it to the entire park.

    The wheels on an old caboose were repurposed into the legs on benches. A new ride representing an exploding powder mill, used parts of an old ride, including its track and a rail car to "show" the extent of the damage of the explosion. Fun stuff!





    An old grist stone became part of a tribute outside of the church, which had been carefully taken down, moved to the park, and rebuilt. Other buildings within the park were also salvaged from other sites.










    Reuse is one of the primary components of the four R's of waste reduction: reduce, reuse, recycle, and refuse. Walking through Silver Dollar City reinforced for me that reusing can be a lot of fun as we take the opportunity to engage our creative side.
  • 10/05/2012 1:56 PM | Nancy Richardson (Administrator)

    Although the economy has side-lined many education projects these past few years for our members, as I travel across the country, I am beginning to see member projects that are being completed.  Such is the case at the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Sports Complex in Arlington, Texas.  Even before the project was built, way back in 1997, the goal was to install an educational/walking/jogging trail for park users.  Over the years, the trail was proposed through their budgeting process time after time after time. but with so many other responsibilities, the city of Arlington was unable to make that trail a reality.

    However,  recently on my re-certification site review of the project (which includes the Gary Stephenson-designed Tierra Verde Golf club), I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was the trail itself completed, the interpretive signage was installed as well.  The much anticipated walking trail is 1.2 miles long and takes a walker/jogger through several different habitats along a granite-based trail which is wide enough to keep patrons out of the vegetation but narrow enough for it to be an intimate experience in nature.  It was evident that there had been a lot of planning in this design.

    At the beginning of the trail is a sign which explains the concept of the trail design by highlighting the Guiding Principles for Ecologically Sustainable Trail Design such as "Provide Buffers to Avoid/Protect Sensitive Ecological and Hydrological Systems".   To be a sustainable trail, each of these Key Factors in Developing a Sustainable Trail must be considered in the planning, design, and construction of the trail:

    1. Physical Sustainability -designing trails to retain their form over years of use and natural forces' impact on them

    2. Ecological Sustainability - minimizing ecological impact of trail especially in sensitive areas.

    3. Engendering Stewardship - fostering a sense of individual responsibiliy for stewardship.

    Then to keep users on the trail, the trail design must: create compelling trail sequences, manage view sheds for interest, and be shaped (laid out) consistent with visitor expectation.

    The MLK trail has done all of this and more.  Signs, like the one you see here, were placed cooperatively with Texas Parks & Wildlife and are of a durable, recycled material.  Benches are being placed throughout the length of the trail for those who wish to sit and reflect.

    So when you are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and would like to take a short yet informative walk, try the Nature Trail at MLK near Arlington. On the other hand,  if you are planning a project that has been put on hold time and time again, just hang in there.  The MLK folks did, and although it took over 13 years, the end product was definitely worth the wait.

  • 10/03/2012 4:07 PM | Deleted user
    As the season draws to a close for many of our northern property managers and starts up for southern properties, now is a good time to think about collecting documentation regarding your outdoor stewardship efforts.

    Wildlife Inventory
    Spring is the best time to do a wildlife inventory, primarily because during the mating season the male birds are in full breeding display, both in color and in song, making them easy to identify. At this time of year many of the birds are a more camouflaged brown color or, for northern properties, have already left to go south for the winter. Still, if you are looking to document your Wildlife and Habitat Management this winter, you should not put off creating a wildlife inventory much longer.

    Photographs
    Take photos to document what your stewardship efforts.  These should include:
    •    Natural areas, such as representative woods, wetlands, ponds, and gardens.
    •    Maintenance facility, including: pesticide storage, mix and load areas, and equipment wash areas.
    •    Representative water features.
    •    Outreach and education activities- take photos of people in action implementing projects, resource committee members or meetings, tours if you host them, and your display.
    •    Before and After photos of project work.

    Property Map
    After making changes to the property, such as when you have added natural areas, update your map. Though there is no particular size requirement for your map, we recommend keeping it to 8-1/2 x 14 inches or, if your property is quite large, make one 8-1/2 x 14 inch map per each nine holes of golf.   You can do this by photocopying and reducing an existing property map, such as an irrigation map. Google maps or a similar online resource is also a good source for your base map.

    Integrated Pest Management Records
    •    Chemical Use Tables (Pesticide, Fertilizer, Aquatic Weed/Pest Control Reference Tables)
    •    Scouting Records

    Water Quality Test Results
    Testing must be conducted at least one time per year.  All irrigation sources must be tested for nutrients, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and specific conductivity.  Creeks/streams/rivers should be tested for dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, specific conductivity, and either nutrients OR macroinvertebrates.

    Case Study
    We will accept case studies at any time. If you have an environmental project of any kind, from a new turfgrass management technique, recycling or reuse project, to an outreach and education project, please let us know about it. We use these case studies during presentations, in articles, and as examples when talking to reporters.

    Remember that your documentation can also be a valuable communications tool for your Outreach and Education efforts.
  • 09/27/2012 10:00 AM | Deleted user
    We often see maintenance facilities in serious need of upgrades, but even in the best of times it is difficult to get funding to improve these areas. Fuels, oils, and concentrated chemicals are the most hazardous elements of landscape maintenance. Spills can degrade the quality of surface and ground water as well as cause these chemicals to enter the food web. There should be spill containment for these materials where they are stored, mixed, and loaded.

    Luckily, there are some low cost options to improve spill containment. In the storage area, placing liquid chemical containers into plastic or metal trays or bins provide instant secondary containment. Available in large box stores, second hand stores, and garage sales, any waterproof container large enough to sit your bottles in will prevent drips and leaks from soaking into shelving or dripping onto the floor. Another option is to place shelving units inside of larger cement mixing tubs. These secondary containment options are especially important if you have wooden shelves or floors.

    Many maintenance facilities have a combined wash pad and mix/load station. The presence of the drain, designed primarily with the purpose of moving wash water from the pad to someplace else, will also move a chemical spill, making it difficult if not impossible to collect the spill so that the chemical can be handled as per the label or MSDS. We recommend building separate pads for washing and for mixing and loading, but when you have a combined system and building a new pad is not an option, a low cost approach is to purchase a drain cover. Putting the cover over the drain prior to opening the container of concentrated chemicals will ensure that a spill remains on the pad and can be collected with the most inexpensive of spill kits - kitty litter stored in a waterproof container.

  • 09/24/2012 2:19 PM | Nancy Richardson (Administrator)

    It never ceases to amaze me what necessity can help us to invent.  And I am quite sure that I would never have thought of using a vacuum in this particular way.   But when it came to dealing with a native honeybee swarm at Sand Ridge Golf Club in Chardon, Ohio, a local beekeeper used a new method to exact the little critters from the wetland area where they were not wanted.  


    Golf Course Superintendent Brent Palich said the bees just showed up as a swarm one morning. “We didn’t think the bees would be harmful to the golfers, but, on the other hand, with the close proximity to the fifth green we didn’t want to cause any panic to golfers so we thought we should do something about them.”  With honey bees disappearing across the country due to Honey Bee Colony Collapse, beekeepers are always eager to get new bee populations.  But how do you find one of those  beekeepers?   You got it ….just Google ‘Beekeeper’.  Fortunately, one beekeeper popped up as being located nearby and came right out to Sand Ridge with a new instrument for removal of bees. 


    Historically, beekeepers just shake bees down into an empty box hoping to capture the queen within the mass of worker bees.  This creates a lot of flying,  unhappy bees in the air and is not always completely successful.   With the specially designed bee vacuum in hand, the removal is more methodical and upsets the bees less.  As you can see from the photo, the bees are just sucked up through the hose and into an awaiting box or hive.  Since this first swarm, Sand Ridge has had other noticeable swarms to fly in, but Palich said “we have just allowed them to stay as they have always moved on by the next day.”  Guess they heard about the vacuum, huh.

  • 09/22/2012 5:15 PM | Deleted user
    Three years ago, someone had an idea to help The First Tee chapters across the country to conduct environmental improvements at their host golf courses. With support from the FedEx Cup and now Toro we have done course improvement projects at fourteen golf courses and have a number more planned.

    Today, because of that idea, over a hundred people got up this morning and headed to The Bob O’Connor Golf Course in Pittsburgh, PA. Today, because of that idea, we planted wildflowers on the course in an area that used to be maintained turfgrass. Those wildflowers will provide food and shelter for a variety of wildlife.

    Because of that idea, we were all connected to the red-tailed hawk, who perched in a nearby tree to watch us improve its home. We educated over 100 individuals about habitat, turfgrass management, and how each of us is connected to everybody and everything else.

    What idea will you wake up with tomorrow that will change the world?
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