Audubon group honors Mohawk Golf Club for environmental planning

PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Tee box markers are custom made of aluminum with the golf club logo at Mohawk Golf Club in Niskayuna Friday, May 16, 2014.PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Tee box markers are custom made of aluminum with the golf club logo at Mohawk Golf Club in Niskayuna Friday, May 16, 2014.

By Kristin Schultz

Gazette Reporter

It’s not just golfers who have hit a hole-in-one at Mohawk Golf Club. Birds and other wildlife have also scored big as the Union Street course was recently recognized for its environmental planning by Audubon International.

Mohawk Golf Club became a part of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. The program recognizes environmentally focused efforts and provides ongoing education to enhance and preserve natural habitats.

Mohawk superintendent Andy Eick started the application process in the fall and the golf course was certified in January. Eick said the process usually takes two to three years, but Mohawk achieved it in just a few months.

“This recognition is significant for me and Mohawk because it validates what we are already accomplishing — being environmentally conscious and friendly,” Eick said. “The perception and reputation of golf courses are [often] painted in a negative light. They are accused of overusing pesticides and fertilizers, but, in reality, golf course superintendents consider ourselves stewards of the land.”

The first step in the process was a site assessment that looks at a number of environmental categories: environmental planning; wildlife and habitat management; chemical use reduction and safety; water conservation; water quality management; and outreach and education.

Based on that assessment, the next step was to develop plans and make improvements, and then the course can be certified.

Audubon International executive director Christine Kane said in a statement: “The open space of a golf course is utilized not only by golfers, but is habitat for a variety of wildlife species. We welcome Mohawk Golf Club’s commitment to the environment and to managing the golf course with wildlife in mind.”

Some of the projects that Eick and his team may undertake to continue to protect the birds and mammals that call the course home include:

u Placing nesting boxes for cavity-nesting birds like bluebirds and swallows.

u Using integrated pest management techniques.

u Conserving water.

u Maintaining food and cover for wildlife.

“The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program benefits both people and wildlife,” Kane said. “It’s a great way for the managers of developed properties and environmental organizations to work together to become better stewards of land and natural resources.”