Helping Our Peninsula's Environment


Astroturf Audubon

Is Audubon Certifying Golf Courses?

or - The Trojan Horse Golf Curse

(c) Copyright 1994 - 2003 David Dilworth

Q - What in the world is Audubon doing certifying Golf Courses? 
A - They aren't!

There is an organization with "Audubon" in its name "certifying" golf courses as environmentally good. This "certification" is giving false credibility to governments and the public for environmentally destructive projects.

The Audubon Society that you fondly know of does not certify Golf Courses; another "Audubon" does.

An organization "that has nothing to do with the National Audubon Society" is calling itself Audubon International (formerly 'Audubon Society of New York State, Inc.') according to National Audubon Society (the birdwatchers) President Peter Berle.

This organization supported by "a variety of participants in the golfing industry including USGA, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America," and others, is promoting what they call the "Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program."

Whatever the merits of that program, is the use of the Audubon name accidental? Would an ethical effort use such a name? I feel an ethical effort would stand on its own merits and its own name. It appears to me that this effort is intended to confuse government officials and the public by attaching Audubon's good name and environmental credibility to highly harmful golf course development.

Here on the Monterey Peninsula where golf courses (along with mansion development) are threatening the extinction of our native Monterey Pine forest, this appearance of conservation "certification" is giving false conservation credibility to a proposed golf course that would destroy what is possibly the most important Monterey Pine forest in the world.

The forest, Jeffers Forest, "is the least disturbed of any [Monterey Pine forest] that now exists." according to Prof. William Libby of the U.C. Berkeley Department of Forestry and Resource Management. In 1994 the Ventana Sierra Club Chapter went on record supporting the Jeffers Forest as a Natural Preserve. California Native Plant Society lists Monterey Pine's imperiled condition as 1B. The only stronger designation is 1A - which means extinct. Yet Clint Eastwood's Pebble Beach Company has applied to bulldoze this forest into a golf course.

Another local golf course boasts of this "Audubon Certification". Called Spanish Bay and enormously controversial, it was approved by a razor thin political vote in 1985 only along with extensive environmental mitigation measures.

In the 18 years since completion many important environmental mitigation measures remain undone, including soil restoration and the required closing and digging up of a road through a dedicated Natural Reserve and getting a Calif. Dept of Fish & Game permit. There is little expectation those conditions will ever be met - short of lawsuits.

Until I called National Audubon (the good guys & gals), none of us here, including me, seriously questioned the "Audubon Golf Course Cooperative Sanctuary Certification." So, you planning staff, elected officials and genuine environmental advocates have now been warned - This environmental Trojan Horse could soon be "coming to a theater near you."

For further information: Call National Audubon Society 

Public Affairs 212 979 3026

Main number 212 979 3000; Fax 212 473 6021

*Native Monterey pine (with only 17 square miles of native habitat worldwide) is distinguished from highly hybridized Monterey pine tree farms (some 7 million acres worldwide).

Postscript - We'll Sue You for exposing Us

The synthetic Audubon sent a letter promising to sue me after this article was originally published. But the only factual problem they could find was that I hadn't mentioned they'd won a lawsuit in New York State allowing them to use the name Audubon. Although I didn't need to, I sent out a clarification on my omission anyway.

No Criteria - Just Pay Us

At about the same time, the Pacific Grove Museum Chairman wrote to the artificial Audubon asking for their criteria for "certifying golf courses." They did not provide any specific environmental criteria at all, other than asking the golf course do a vague self-audit and of course - requiring the golf course to pay them a yearly fee.


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This Page Last Updated April 30, 2003