Re: Serious stuff about golf

Subject: Re: Serious stuff about golf
From: "M. S. O'Keeffe" <>
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 13:03:41 -0700
Conole, Lawrie wrote:
> > I refer you to my message that I sent to Birding-Aus earlier today.
> > Birds Australia IS
> > actively involved in advising golf clubs about making their courses
> > more suitable for
> > birds and other wildlife. YOU and everyone else can help in this
> > process by taking part
> > in the Birds On Golf Courses Project (see p20 of the March 1997 issue
> > of Wingspan).
> >
> I think the golf course thread has just about outlived its use-by date.
> However, I'd still make the point that we (including Birds Australia or
> not) should still recognise that golf courses REPLACE bird habitat in
> many places, rather than AUGMENT it.  I can think of only one golf
> course (out of a dozen or so) that was initiated on farmland in my area,
> rather than being carved out of native vegetation (it's gone broke BTW).
> The reason why some golf courses are good for birding (ie. some birds
> are easy to see there) is that the habitat that the golf course was
> plonked into was good (or better) for birding too.  In most cases, even
> if they are "birdy", golf courses are less complete habitats than what
> they replaced; and in any case what about other biota than birds?  How
> many golf courses are good places to see native mammals or butterflies
> or frogs ....... ?
> > I also repeat my earlier point that the Australian golfing industry is
> > drawing up a code
> > of best practice for environmental management of their courses. This
> > has been due
> >
> What about best practice when planning the course?  That is, why put it
> in that woodland, when it could be put on that clapped-out bit of
> farmland????
> It's fine & desirable to try and have an input into managing existing
> golf courses with environmental sympathy, but I think we should also be
> trying to instill that way of thinking BEFORE the off.
> Lawrie Conole
> Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Here! Here!, Lawrie. 

This is really about two different philosophies.  One of them is the
genuine conservation article, with land use planning from the outset.  A
piece of land is available for "something".  Rather than saying I'm
going to put an outer space theme park here (or else!) and my only
questions are about how to do this, we would assess the characteristics
of the land (including its ecological characteristics and capabilities),
the requirements of the community and then ask what should be done with
this land?  If we had a particular project in mind, we would not pin it
down in one place and demand to be able to go ahead at that spot no
matter what.  We would assess the requirements of the project, list its
potential impacts and how these might be managed, and then look for a
place that is appropriate.  Farmland shouldn't always bear the brunt of
the hunt for "clapped out land".  Given a choice between an orchard on
fertile ground, and a golf course, I think the orchard should be
preferred.  Fertile land is scarce in this country, and where it is
"abundant" this is only relative.  Most land is still not capable of
taking cultivation.  Put another way,  Mark Twain said "I'm investing in
land.. you see, they've stopped making it."

The other approach which I see is really the old approach dressed up in
the metaphorical sheeps clothing. I call it the "Its a great marketing
tool" approach.  I've heard some call it the smiling dolphin syndrome. 
Take your same old D9's, clear your patch of eucalypt forest (its
mowhere near as "nice" as the "good bush" [rainforest}), then put some
possums or other indigenous wildlife (which have just been ploughed six
feet under)on the "Entrance Statement" (used to be called a sign), or in
the case of a golf course, put it on the scorecard and call it "A Place
for You and Your Family, In Harmony With Nature".  Well I have to tell
you, I see this sort of drivel all the time.  Its deceitful.  Worse, it
does conservation a diservice by promoting something which does not
conserve. The message, by default, then, is that conservation is a waste
of time.  This is certainly not what is needed.

As I say, its attitudes that need changing.  In some cases the sorts of
projects I have just described come about because of ignorance.Those
undertaking them do not really understand what is meant by "sustainable"
or environmentally appropriate.  In some cases because those concerned
are just stuck in an old greed-oriented way of thinking.  Sometimes
Some projects end up being done because thats the way everyone else does
it, and no one gets any thanks for trying it differently.  Thats where
birders, froggers, botanists and the rest of us can make a difference. 
Speak up in support of anyone who wants to try and do things the right
way.  Do you realise that at the moment there are people, companies or
whatever who have tried the new way, but have been frustrated by local
government, with their petty agendas and "used car salesman" approach to
local affairs? An example.  A developer decides to put in some high
density housing and turn the land saved into an environmental reserve
(complete with a lake system supporting 120 species of birds, incl. 5
endangered species) with an interpretive centre for the local school.
Council says no... Aussies dont like those high density things...its not
Australian.  You will put in normal houses with yards.  Further, you
will drain and fill the lake and put a football field on it.  Of course
the developer is flabbergasted.."I'm offering to spend money, and do
things the right way for the environment and the community, at my
expense, and they won't let me... thats the last time I'll bother, it
just creates troubles and worries the backers..."  Incredible.  And
there are plenty more such examples.

Conservationists are, quite rightly very good at pointing the finger
when things go wrong, or when wrongs are committed.  However, we
absolutely MUST be equally as good at pointing the finger and handing
out kudos when some one does the right thing, or at least has a GENUINE
attempt.  As I said with golf courses (and I'm sure it applies to
housing, and lots of other things), there is enough good will around
that a project done the right way, and promoted honestly should be
popular.  A few such things up and running, with lots of fanfare and
congratulations, and pretty soon you've set a new standard and perhaps
attitudes begin to change too.  So don't be afraid to demand that things
are done properly, be be damned sure that you stand up and clap and
cheer when you see someone having a go at doing things the right way. 
It could make all the difference.

Its up to us to keep people informed, and to support strong enforcement
of environmental standards, but we should realise that enforcement must
involve more than punitive measures. Don't let those with wealth and
power keep building golf courses (or whatever) wherever they want,
without a thought or a care.  But, support those who try to do a good
job, and don't make blanket condemnations that deprive people of the
opportunity to change. People generally prefer to have their good points
and their positive achievements highlighted....

PS  There really are lots and lots of Friarbirds around Mt Coot-ha at
the moment, but I've also seen flocks of Blue-faced Honeyeaters.... up
to 20 in a flock.  Is this usual?
Scott O'Keeffe
Centre for Conservation Biology, University of Queensland

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