Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Copperleaf Environmental Sustainability

I was recently interviewed for a turf magazine and one of the questions was "What should I know about Copperleaf?" My answer consisted of a general description of the facility, location, membership, etc. I also added the following comment: "Copperleaf maintains its designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary with an operational emphasis on environmental sustainability". At that point, I wondered how much our general membership knew of these routine environmentally conscious maintenance practices and efforts.

While I could probably write a small book going over our programs and how our operation positively impacts the environment, I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight some of the initiatives and programs that make Copperleaf unique. 

As a segway into the nuts and bolts of our initiatives and efforts, below is our "Environmental Policy", which summarizes our involvement with Audubon International and goals for positive environmental performance as it relates to everyday Golf Course Maintenance practices.

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf is an award-winning education and certification program that helps golf courses protect our environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game of golf. By helping people embrace the valuable natural areas and wildlife habitats that golf courses provide, improve efficiency, and minimize potentially harmful impacts of golf course operations, the program serves an important environmental role. Copperleaf has proudly held Audubon Certification for the past 18 years.

In addition to our Certification with Audubon, I wanted to share some specific environmental initiatives and practices that demonstrate our continued commitment to environmental sustainability.

➤ We have two osprey platforms located on the golf course. There is a camera located on the platform in between holes #3 and #4 with a 24/7 video feed. New hatchlings are typically observed in the month of February each year. 
➤ There are 17 Birdhouses and 6 Purple Martin houses found on property. Common residents found this time of the year include Eastern Screech Owls, Eastern Bluebirds, Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmice, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Pileated Woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatchers and Purple Martins. Additional birds found nesting include Bald Eagles, Osprey and Great Horned Owls. 
➤ Our butterfly garden is located between holes #3 and #4, just past one of our Osprey platforms. The butterfly garden includes dozens of pollinating plants and frequently produces many different species of butterflies.
➤ Recognizing the Florida Golf Course Best Management Practices Program, H.B. 967 was signed into law in 2022. We hold Certification with this program, and have also adopted our own Copperleaf BMP manual, which serves as a guide for us to conduct routine golf course maintenance practices while preventing contamination, waste, and habitat loss.
➤ We maintain a closed-loop water recycling system to wash off our golf course maintenance equipment. The recycled water utilized to wash equipment is filtered, free of grease, oil and contaminants. This provides a clean source for our equipment, keeping our operations in compliance with EPA regulations. 
➤ Our chemical mixing center consists of a self-contained area to mix and load chemicals prior to treatment. All spills are collected and managed using an in-ground sump pump basin. This prevents any pesticide leaks or spills from ultimately contaminating our water bodies.
➤ Aquatic plants can be found surrounding all lakes at Copperleaf. These beneficial littoral plantings provide habitat for fish and wildlife, serve as a filter by absorbing nutrients and contaminants, improve water clarity, stabilize our shorelines and enhance our overall aquatic ecosystem.
➤ Moisture meters are routinely used on the golf course to determine precise irrigation needs. Overwatering the golf course is an undesirable practice leading to less-than-ideal playing conditions. Greens are often hand-watered to ensure the correct amount of water is applied.
➤ Fertilizer applications are based on soil test results and plant needs. Overfertilization of the golf course is costly, environmentally irresponsible, and also produces undesirable playing conditions.
➤ We utilize Integrated Pest Management, which is a method of reducing overall pest management expenses and exposure by using a combination of tactics to control undesirable pests, such as cultural, biological, genetic, and chemical controls. Unnecessary applications of pesticides are costly, increase the development of resistance and can also present environmental concerns. 
➤ Wildlife Tours are routinely offered to our members and are led by Brian Beckner of Native Bird Boxes. Brian provides wildlife services to Copperleaf, including the care and upkeep of all bird boxes on property. 
➤ Lastly, Copperleaf will soon be utilizing the services of a professional beekeeper to manage honeybee hives on property. The location of our hives will be hidden from sight and completely safe for golfers and residents. Not only do honeybees provide valuable pollination services for plants on the golf course, but also provide honey that we will soon be able to sell, with profits returned to help sustain our environmental programs. 

Golf Course Superintendents are proud environmental stewards. We are fortunate to have a direct positive impact on natural resources, improving the environmental health of Florida. Copperleaf is a beautiful property filled with native flora and fauna. Our Golf Course Maintenance team remains committed to practicing environmental stewardship while continuously enhancing the overall experience for both our members and guests.

Below are some photos taken on property over the past few years.


Juvenile Bald Eagle

Tricolored Heron

Purple Martin hatchlings



Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

Northern Flicker

Common Gallinule with hatchling

Osprey with hatchlings

Wildlife Tour

American Alligator

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