From: Catherine Trevison, The Oregonian
Published November 30, 2005 12:00 AM

Program Seeks Greener Image for Golf Courses

Golf courses that use chemicals with restraint, monitor water quality and encourage wildlife will be recognized under a new program launched last week by a group of Oregon and Washington golf course superintendents.

The new Northwest Golf Course Environmental Alliance is intended to promote environmental accomplishment and to change the perception of golf courses as polluters, said David Phipps, one of the organizers and the superintendent of the Stone Creek Golf Club in Oregon City.

In the past, golf courses developed a reputation as "really heavy pesticide bad actors," using chemicals that harmed wildlife and people, said Clair Klock, conservation specialist for the Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District.

But times are changing. Golf courses like Stone Creek follow a strong set of environmental practices such as having a wide buffer between the golf course and its streams, Klock said. Several local courses have been certified through Audubon International programs for their efforts to maintain wildlife habitat.

By promoting strong environmental guidelines, the group wants to "dispel the belief that golf courses are polluting the environment. We're not. We're actually beneficial," Phipps said.

The alliance kicked off its new effort at the annual environmental committee meeting of the Northwest Turfgrass Association last week at The Resort at the Mountain in Welches.

Golf courses that want to be certified by the alliance must meet three main requirements.

First, they must follow a set of environmental guidelines developed for local golf courses about five years ago. They include best practices for fertilization and irrigation, and programs for pest management, water quality and wildlife habitat. Right now, 23 golf courses in Oregon and Washington follow the guidelines, out of a total of about 400, Phipps said.

Courses must also apply for certification through the Audubon program and work with the local community on such things as watershed councils, birding tours or education for schoolchildren.

The final requirement is twice-yearly testing of golf course streams and ponds. While the tests are expensive -- about $2,000 to $3,000 for one round -- they reveal whether fertilizer, herbicides or fungicides are running into the water, Phipps said. After applying for certification, the course must prove that officials have tested for three years.

A group with members including environmentalists and toxicologists will review each golf course's application and records.

"We're going to put some teeth in this program, so when someone does achieve certification, it's going to mean something," Phipps said.

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