The Salem, Ore. club has been designated a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. As part of the certification process, Illahe has cataloged exactly what plants and animals live on the course, hung more than two dozen nesting boxes on the course, posted “newt migration” signs, to make people aware of the rough-skinned newts that lay eggs and breed in one of the ponds, and built a nature trail where owls nest each year.
Illahe Hills Country Club in Salem, Ore. has been designated a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, in recognition of its sustainability efforts, the Salem Statesman Journal reported. As part of the certification process, Illahe has cataloged exactly what plants and animals live on the course.
It has hung more than two dozen nesting boxes on the course, as part of a youth outreach project, the Statesman Journal reported. It posted “newt migration” signs, to make people aware of the rough-skinned newts that lay eggs and breed in one of the ponds.
And it built a nature trail where owls nest each year, the Statesman Journal reported, and created a National Wildlife Federation-certified wildlife garden.
“The two biggest things we were commended for when we had the inspector out was having an awareness of and efforts in promoting wildlife habitat, and our education outreach opportunities,” said Kassi Roosth, Illahe’s education and outreach coordinator.
Now, she said, “We are going to reach out to other golf courses in the area to see if they would be willing to take on this program, or even small parts of it.”
Audubon International has no connection with the National Audubon Society, the century-old birder group, or its local chapters, the Statesman Journal reported. Instead, it specializes in environmental sustainability certifications, mostly for golf courses but also for parks, schools, cemeteries and other businesses.
That’s created some bad feelings between the two organizations, especially because Audubon International’s certification does not specifically protect larger birds, such as geese, that can cause problems on golf courses, the Statesman Journal reported.
“The decision of Audubon International to continue using the name despite objections by the National Audubon Society leads to considerable confusion in the community,” Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society’s Portland chapter, told the Statesman Journal.
“A review of their leadership reflects the fact that the organization is dominated by golf industry professionals,” Sallinger said.
Illahe, though, has worked closely with the Salem Audubon Society, which does regular bird walks on the course, the Statesman Journal reported.
“They’re doing a great job of trying to reduce their use of herbicides and pesticides, being careful of the chemicals they put on as well as their plantings,” Salem chapter President Tim Johnson said. “We see a very healthy ecosystem there in terms of the bird populations on and around the golf course.”
The Salem chapter also has helped Illahe with bimonthly bird surveys, which have identified 92 different bird species on the course, Roosth told the Statesman Journal.
Illahe Hills Country Club is a private, 18-hole golf course, the Statesman Journal reported. To obtain the certification, it had to demonstrate that it improved environmental quality in six categories: environmental planning; wildlife and habitat management; outreach and education; chemical use reduction and safety; water conservation; and water quality management.
Golf courses pay $400 per year to participate, the Statesman Journal reported. The program also helped the club develop a realistic management plan, Roosth said.
“It’s very golf course-focused, setting goals golf courses can implement and run their needs as a business, too,” Roosth said. “It finds balance on how they can be more sustainable and still be a golf course, too.”
That means the work isn’t finished once the course is certified, the Statesman Journal reported. For example, last week, a fish biologist from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife visited Illahe to conduct a fish survey in its ponds. Knowing what species use the ponds will help the club improve aquatic habitat, Roosth said.
The south Salem golf course is among 20 courses in Oregon and 900 worldwide to achieve the certification, from New York-based Audubon International, the Statesman Journal reported.