Signature Sanctuary

About the Signature Sanctuary Program

The exclusive Signature Sanctuary Program is for new and undeveloped golf courses and properties that are planning on future construction and development.  The program involves comprehensive environmental planning with various stakeholders prior to and during construction so that the environmental health of the property is maintained in a sustainable manner.  Both environmental and economic objectives are taken into account when developing a site-specific Natural Resource Management Plan to ensure that future managers apply sustainable resource management practices in the long-term stewardship of the property.

For information about joining the
Signature Sanctuary Program
Please contact Georgie Nugent at

Make the Environment Part of Your Plan

The Signature Sanctuary Program offers a "beyond compliance" approach to project development, construction, grand opening, and long-term management. In addition to minimum certification standards, each project is given the opportunity to work towards three different levels of certification. The program is flexible and adaptable to the project, but generally involves the following:

  • Initial Site Assessment- An on-site assessment will be conducted by Audubon International staff and the project team to evaluate and document the existing natural resources and how those resources may be impacted by future proposed development.
  • Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP)- A well-developed project specific NRMP will serve as a guide for the construction and management of the property focusing on wildlife management, habitat enhancement, waste and materials management, energy efficiency, water quality and conservation, and pest management.
  • Implementation- To become certified, a project owner must implement the NRMP, meet the minimum certification standards and site-specific requirements, and pass an environmental audit. Site visits are conducted by Audubon International staff during the major phases of the project to supplement training and education of construction and operational personnel as well as consulting staff.
  • Environmental Audit- Audubon International staff will conduct an environmental audit of the project to assess compliance with the program and to generate site-specific requirements for long-term management in accordance with Signature Sanctuary Program standards.
  • Recertification- Demonstrating continued compliance with the program criteria, implementation of the NRMP, and educational and outreach activities are necessary for recertification. Each project location will host a site visit from a member of a local environmental group on year three after the environmental audit. Subsequent site-audits are conducted every third year by Audubon International staff.

To join the Signature Sanctuary Program a property must apply for membership. Applications will be reviewed by Audubon International to ensure that the proposed project is a good fit for the Signature Sanctuary Program. A one-time, non-refundable program registration fee of $7,500 (USD) is required once the application has been approved. Annual program membership fees thereafter are $500 (USD) for all properties.

"We have always shared Audubon International's philosophy that nature and golf can coexist in a shared environment. At Oitavos, we worked hand in hand to achieve this balance and found in many cases that Audubon International habitat requirements enhanced the beauty and intrigue of the golf experience. It's certainly a win-win situation for everyone."

- J. Drew Rogers, ASGCA, Golf Course Architect

Quinta la Marinha Oitavos Golfe

Benefits of Membership

Becoming a Certified Audubon Sanctuary saves members money and natural resources, according to the most recent survey of members of the Audubon Signature and Classic Programs. Members considered operational costs, up front investments, and the importance of the program in marketing and promotion. Results include:

  • 90% of respondents reported that they believed annual maintenance and operations costs for their facility were either “lower than” or the “same as” the costs of an equivalent, non-Signature member golf course.
  • 43% of respondents felt that these operations and maintenance costs were actually lower due to their participation in the Signature Program.
  • 96% view their participation in the Signature Program as “a good business decision,” with the remaining 4% indicating that they “Don’t Know” at this time.
  • 63% of respondents stated that participation in the Signature Program, including up front monetary and staff investment in the program, has or will save money, as compared to a course designed, constructed, and managed without Audubon International assistance, with 20% of the remaining respondents stating that they “Don’t Know” at this time.
  • 90% stated that they believed the Certified Audubon Signature Sanctuary status earned through following the program guidelines has or will have value in marketing and promotional efforts.

Additional benefits of certification in the Signature and Classic programs include:

“Green appeal” marketing edge - Certified Audubon Signature properties have a market advantage in attracting the growing number of people looking for “green” developments in which to live and recreate.  Certification offers a distinct marketing edge over the competition–often supporting increased or faster sales, increased sales prices or member fees, and lower marketing and holding costs.

Operation and maintenance cost savings - Most members find that in achieving certification, they have learned and put into practice more cost-effective ways to develop and manage their properties, thus saving money, as well as natural resources.

Reduced risk - Following best management practices outlined in the NRMP reduces the risk of harm and potential liability from the use of hazardous materials and reduces the potential for on- and off-site pollution. Reduced risks in turn lower insurance and worker’s compensation costs, potential for adverse regulatory action and harmful publicity, and lost worker time.

Recognition for environmental leadership - Certified Audubon Signature Sanctuaries gain local, national, and international recognition for leadership in environmental stewardship.  A certified Signature property stands as a model providing encouragement and good example for other landowners and managers, consultants, and the community at large to make future land management decisions based on the environment, not just the economic, values of the land.

Environmental protection and enhancement - Owners and managers of certified Audubon Signature properties can take great pride in doing their part to further sustainable resource management and protect and preserve the environment for this and future generations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How far into the planning stage of a project should we contact Audubon International and register in the Program?

As soon as possible so we are all on the same page and you receive our guideline documents prior to final design!  Some credits allowing projects to earn Silver or Gold level certification may be impacted by the timing of Audubon International involvement in the planning process.

How long will the certification process take? Will it hold up construction?

The certification from start to finish typically takes one to three years.  The time-frame is dependent on the project size, speed of construction, and conformity with the program requirements.  After the initial visit/site walk-through, the team will have a better expectation of the timeline.

Does Audubon International promote golf course development?

Audubon International recognizes that many properties will be developed for a variety of purposes, including golf, whether we prefer it or not. Our extensive work with golf courses has proven that properly sited, designed, and managed golf courses can be one of the lowest impact forms of development.  Golf courses can be developed in ways that provide wildlife habitat, protect natural resources, and offer community and recreational values. Ultimately, we support the concept of sustainable development, and know of no other way to promote and implement it than to work with people who are planning to develop land.  Therefore, we try to educate, guide, assist, and offer incentives to people who are going to develop land to do so with environmental stewardship in mind.

What is included in the Natural Resource Management Plan?

The Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP) is based on the Audubon Principles for Sustainable Resource Management and includes the assessment of and plans for:

  • Wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement
  • Waste reduction and management
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water conservation
  • Water quality management and monitoring
  • Integrated pest management

Who prepares the Natural Resource Management Plan?

Program members use qualified individuals or organizations to prepare the Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP). Upon its completion, the NRMP is submitted to Audubon International for review and approval.

How is the Natural Resource Management Plan used?

The project development team is responsible for implementing the recommendations and best management practices outlined in the Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP). The NRMP offers guidance not only during planning, construction, and development, but continues to guide the management of the property once development is complete.  Periodic updates to the NRMP may need to be made to address changing environmental conditions or accommodate new management practices.

How many site visits will be made to my property?

Audubon International will make a total of two site visits to your property. One will be an initial kick-off meeting before construction activities and the other will be conducted when the project is completed to evaluate final certification as a Certified Audubon Signature Sanctuary. The member is responsible for all expenses incurred during the visits.  Once certified, Audubon International will conduct a recertification site visit every three years.

When will my property be eligible for recertification and why should I recertify?

Signature Sanctuary Program members are eligible for recertification every three years, at which time an Audubon International staff member will conduct a site visit. Audubon International provides education and technical assistance during renovation and management of the project. The recertification process allows you to make continuous improvements and to have access to our staff and educational assistance.