(Photo at LaCumbre CC by Wayne Mills/Audubon International)
The Audubon International program to establish habitats for the endangered monarch butterfly in out-of-play areas of U.S. golf courses was launched in 2018 with the help of funding from the United States Golf Association. Now the National Fish and Wildlife Association is adding support, with a goal of adding 500 more courses—50 in each of 10 states—to the cause.
Most people view golf courses as swaths of perfectly cropped and contoured grass, closer to artifice than raw nature, wrote Phil Kloer, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in an article published on mnn.com, the website of the Mother Nature Network.
As many golfers can attest, however, Kloer added, most of the golf course outside the boundaries of greens and fairways is wild and unruly, and can be a difficult place to locate an errant ball.
“About 70 percent of most golf course acreage is managed for out-of-play areas,” Dr. Kimberly Erusha, managing director of the U.S. Golf Association’s (USGA) Green Section, the department that helps courses with turf, environment and sustainability issues, told Kloer.
“That’s an ideal habitat area where we can contribute to monarch butterfly and pollinator conservation,” Dr. Erusha continued.
The beloved and easily identified monarch butterfly is in trouble, Kloer wrote, as habitat loss, pesticides and intensifying climate events have caused monarch populations to decrease significantly over the past 20 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing whether monarchs should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, Kloer wrote in his article for the Mother Nature Network, and many organizations, agencies and individuals have stepped up to plant more monarch habitat such as milkweed, which will strengthen their population.
That includes 250 U.S. club and golf properties that have committed to plan milkweed and other pollinator flowers on at least one acre per golf course, Kloer wrote, through Monarchs in the Rough, an Audubon International project (https://www.auduboninternational.org/page-1863480) to establish monarch habitats on American golf courses that kicked off at the beginning of 2018, with the help of USGA funding.
C&RB has since reported frequently about the development and growth of the program and how individual properties have contributed to it:
And now, Kloer wrote in his article for the Mother Nature Network, with additional funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the goal for 2019 is 500 more courses, 50 in each of 10 states (the states were not specified).
About 2.5 million acres of U.S. land is dvoted to golf courses, Kloer wrote, and Audubon International has estimated that at least 100,000 acres have the potential to become suitable pollinator habitat for butterflies and bees, if managed correctly.
Before Monarchs in the Rough launched, however, Kloer wrote, some courses were already stepping up to monarch conservation on their own. A partnership between USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife and Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.—one of the premier private clubs in the country that has hosted a Ryder Cup and a PGA Championship—led to 5.5 acres of monarch habitat.
“My three daughters play golf competitively, and I’m on courses all the time, with all these green spaces,” Brent Harrel, Partners for Fish and Wildlife coordinator in Kentucky, told Kloer. “And the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Department had just launched their Monarch Conservation Plan, which called for lots of small sites for monarch habitat. It seemed like a perfect fit.
“Golf courses are perfect for monarch habitat,” Harrel continued. “Establishing these habitats lowers maintenance costs over the long term, adds color to the course, educates the public about conservation, and helps move courses toward green practices.”
Harrel called Roger Meier, Valhalla GC’s Golf Course Superintendent, to ask if he’d be interested in the program, Kloer wrote. “Valhalla is a really prestigious course, and my hopes were if Valhalla set the example, other courses would follow,” Harrel said.
And Meier, who has long been known as a forward-thinking conservationist, jumped on board immediately, Kloer wrote.
“I can’t believe you called me,” Meier told Harrel. “I have been trying to find somebody to do this exact thing you are talking about.” Meier even raised the stakes: He asked Partners for Fish and Wildlife to add special bat poles along a creek at Valhalla, structures that attract bats so they can roost in safety.
The monarch site preparation at Valhalla took about a year, Kloer wrote. “Everyone wants to hurry up and plant,” said Harrel. “But that’s always a disaster. It takes about three years to get a habitat going right.”
But the acres of milkweed, which adult monarchs need to propagate, bloomed at Valhalla in 2018.”Every time I’ve been out there there’s been tons of monarchs, as well as bees and other pollinators,” Harrel said.
Both Valhalla projects—the monarch habitat and bat poles—totaled about $8,000, with Partners for Fish and Wildlife kicking in $2,775 for seed, the Forest Bat Conservation Fund adding $2,300, and the golf course contributing almost $3,000 in materials and labor, Kloer wrote in his article for the Mother Nature Network.
Several other Kentucky golf courses have since seen what Valhalla did and started their own monarch habitats, Kloer wrote.
To help educate golfers, Valhalla put up signs explaining that the area is a monarch and pollinator habitat. “Golfers are used to everything being nicely mowed and manicured,” Harrel said they see the sign, and “They say, ‘Oh, I get it.'”
In addition to a photo of Valhalla’s acreage of pollinator habitat, the Mother Nature Network article (https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/golf-courses-across-us-step-save-monarch-butterflies) also includes photos of other habitats created on the courses at LaCumbre Country Club in Santa Barbara, Calif. (above) and Laurel Creek Country Club in Mount Laurel, N.J.