“Do I need to work with a consultant to become a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary?”

“Do I need to work with a consultant to become a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary?”

This is a common question we receive regarding the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses (ACSP).

The short answer is: No. Consultants are not required for a course to become a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

The ACSP for golf is an environmental education program with a certification component. As individuals work through the Site Assessment and Environmental Plan, put the plan into action, collect backup documentation, and develop a case study, they are on an educational path that not only changes the way a property is managed, but also the way the people involved in the program think about property management. Hiring an outside person to complete the certification process reduces staff involvement and learning, and can therefore diminish the biggest benefit of the program.

Benefits of DIY (Do it yourself):

One of our primary goals is keeping costs associated with the program low. We do not require consultants as this would increase program costs. We strive to keep the program fee low and do not have certification requirements that require large investments in infrastructure.

We have worked with several members who have had success using a consultant. However, we find that those members who successfully use a consultant are the members who are very involved in the process.

We have also worked with members who have used a consultant and have not had long-term success. Sometimes a consultant comes in, does all the work, and leaves. No one is left on site that has any ownership in the environmental program, and it subsequently falters. We want our members to be successful for the long term and having dedicated staff and golfers on site is part of that success.

Sometimes, consultants do not follow our certification process. We have set up the certification materials to be as efficient as possible for our members to complete and for ourselves to review. If a consultant changes the looks or format of the submitted certification materials, or gives us information we do not ask for, it slows down our review time substantially. We are a small non-profit organization with a growing membership, and we simply cannot afford to extend the time needed to review materials.

Benefits of hiring a consultant:

In some cases, hiring a consultant is a good option. We do stress that the ACSP is not a one person task, which is why we look for each member to set up a diverse Resource Advisory Group made up of staff, golfers, and local experts. Conducting a wildlife inventory, collecting water quality data, performing an energy audit, creating educational signs, and choosing native plants are just a few of the projects that our members might not have the experience to complete. While Resource Advisory Groups are usually made up of volunteers, hired consultants are often very effective as part of these groups. A local consultant can bring expertise and will often be able to connect your environmental efforts with other local programs and incentives.

Additionally, if your property is having significant environmental issues or is under heavy criticism, it can be a wise investment to have a professional gather some of your environmental information, such as conducting your water testing or performing an irrigation audit, and make recommendations based on their expertise.  Make sure you hire a consultant with technical expertise who can provide scientifically credible data that meet industry and regulatory standards.

We encourage any consultants who would like to work with golf courses on the certification process to contact us. This partnership usually works best for all parties when there is a spirit of collaboration and a communal willingness to share our educational philosophy, follow our certification process, and help set up an active, resourceful, and dedicated Resource Advisory Group.

For our members, we want to emphasize that a consultant is not required for certification. We want you and your staff to be involved in the process, as this results in dedication to, and investment in, the long-term success of your environmental work. If a consultant fits within your budget and can help you meet your specific sustainability goals, feel free to explore the option and to contact us with any questions. 

Please reach out to us at anytime!

Tara Donadio, Director of Cooperative Sanctuary Programs

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