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4th National Golf and the Environment Summit, Nebraska City, Nebraska

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
4th National Golf and the Environment Summit
Nebraska City, Nebraska

June 25, 2002

Good afternoon. Thank you, Dr. (Larry) Papay, for that kind introduction.

Now, I could certainly use more days like this one. Nice breakfast, few holes of golf with Arnold Palmer, beautiful luncheon – and all legitimately considered “official business.” Only thing that could have made it better was a second hole in one!

It is truly a pleasure to be here today to talk about two things that are both passions of mine – golf and the environment.

When a few brave souls came together in 1994 and started talking about the shared interests of the golf and environmental communities, most people probably thought the conversation would be over before it began. But these pioneers knew that environmentally sound golf courses could – and should – be quality golf courses. That to accomplish one objective, it wasn’t necessary to sacrifice the other.

This morning I had the honor of playing the new ArborLinks course and I can tell you it is as beautiful as it is challenging. I sure got well acquainted with the pond on the 4th hole and the snapping turtle who lives there – who, by the way, I’ve affectionately named “Bogey.” If that thing wasn’t a wetland, I’d have it drained and filled!

What has been created at ArborLinks is exceptional – it shows that outstanding courses can be designed, built, and managed in ways that are environmentally sensitive and economical.

There are a number of people here today who deserve special recognition for their environmental stewardship. I would like to congratulate Arnold Palmer and Palmer Course Design Company, Bill Kubly and Landscapes Unlimited, and John Rosenow and the National Arbor Day Foundation. Through their unique partnership, they have built one of the industry’s most visionary projects ever.

The idea behind ArborLinks is to document the environmental approaches taken in the course’s design and construction and use the lessons learned in similar projects around the world. And there are some great examples to share. Let me highlight just a few:

S the land’s natural features were built into the design to minimize clearing and digging;
S discharge is routed to holding ponds and/or filtration basins to minimize bank erosion;
S the ponds catch runoff (not to mention a few golf balls) and hold it for future irrigation needs;
S native grasslands dominate the property rather than wall to wall turf; and
S holes, tees, and fairways were carefully placed to limit and prevent tree damage.

One of my favorite features of ArborLinks is the “conservation demonstration” offered at each hole. This concept is a creative way to educate golfers about the game’s impact on the environment. And it can help show the world that golf can be a contributor to natural habitats, instead of a detractor.

Many of the design, construction, and maintenance features of ArborLinks are consistent with the voluntary “Environmental Principles for Golf Courses in the United States,” developed in the mid 1990s through the “Golf and Environment” consortium. This gathering of 25 golf, environmental, and government representatives is a model for other industries.

Working together with the Center for Resource Management, the golf industry and the environmental community have come together to create not only these principles, but to conduct other demonstration projects as well as an annual environmental performance survey of the nation’s golf courses to measure progress on environmental issues. The results of these efforts, and others too numerous to list, will go a long way to addressing the environmental challenges that exist on golf courses today.

You are all to be commended for your collaborative efforts to bridge the divide that once existed between your communities. You have accomplished a great deal and you should be proud.

But of course, we can never rest long on our accomplishments. It’s time to take the lessons of ArborLink’s “living laboratory” to the road. With 15,000 golf courses covering close to 2 million acres in the United States, we have a lot of ground to cover. The first challenge is to continue to educate the public; the second, to create sustained changes in practice. The distance between the two can be great, but together I know we can do it.

There are many ways we can work together to help put greater emphasis on environmental stewardship in the golf community. A few ideas may include:

S incorporate environmental awareness into golf youth programs;
S form partnerships with community groups to increase opportunities for non-golf use of courses, such as bird watching, nature trails, and outdoor laboratory learning; and,
S set industry-wide goals for increasing the amount of dedicated wildlife habitat on golf courses or decreasing the amount of water and pesticide use.

Your organizations have shown that you can come together and create great things. There is no doubt that golf is more popular than ever, with 55 million viewers tuning in last weekend for the 102nd US Open Golf Tournament. Of course, Tiger Woods might have had something to do with that. But there is also a basic love among the American people for the game of golf. Let’s take this affection and use it to create a better understanding of the relationship between golf and the environment.

Golf courses should be planned, managed, and recognized for their ecosystem and community benefits, in addition to being great places to play golf. When done properly, there are many non-golf benefits which we can all enjoy, including urban greenspace, flood control and protection of wetlands, wildlife habitat, reclamation and restoration of degraded lands, and more.

So, the next time you’re out playing a round of 18, remember that it’s not just about making it to the green in two, but about our sacred responsibility to create a cleaner, healthier environment for our children and grandchildren.

Thank you.