EGR Awards Case Study

Mid Atlantic Association of GCS

In late 1999, the Mid-Atlantic Association of Golf Course Superintendents (MAAGCS) decided to reorganize its board structure to better respond to increased public and regulatory scrutiny of golf course management practices. The MAAGCS board of directors created new director positions for government relations and media and public relations. They also put in place the infrastructure to quickly communicate to membership on important issues. The chapter already had a long history of being politically active prior to the reorganization. They were an active member of the Maryland Association of Green Industries (MAGI), a coalition of green industry groups with a paid lobbyist. However, the 1999 reorganization brought government relations issues to the forefront and forced the association to become proactive when dealing with government and public relations issues.

Since its reorganization, MAAGCS has worked proactively on many issues including the 1999 drought. The governor's declaration of a statewide drought emergency severely impacted golf courses. Members knew the golf course water restrictions were created without any knowledge of golf course water usage or practices. MAAGCS provided a survey to member superintendents to identify water sources, usage rates and irrigation practices. After the information was gathered, several members, along with the MAGI lobbyist, secured a meeting with the Maryland Department of the Environment to discuss the survey results. The meeting, although not successful in changing golf course water restrictions, did allow the chapter to showcase how educated golf course superintendents are in regards to water consumption and water conservation. In early 2000, Dean Graves, CGCS, the chapter's director of government relations, was appointed to the Maryland Governor's Drought Task Force. Dean's appointment and proactive approach on the drought issue served to their advantage when it came time to deal with future water restrictions.

MAAGCS also worked proactively to develop relationships with the U.S. EPA, particularly with the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. In March 2001, MAAGCS contacted Mike Farrar, who was the GCSAA Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program liaison at the time. He informed MAAGCS about his concerns about pesticide product decisions being made without proper knowledge of how pesticides were used on golf courses. MAAGCS worked with Farrar to arrange a golf course site visit at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va., with twenty EPA scientists and several chapter members. During the golf course visit, members and EPA officials had candid conversations about the Food Quality Protection Act process and data gathering. MAAGCS was able to educate EPA officials on how superintendents employ the concept of IPM and how they use pesticides. EPA officials confirmed that in the absence of sufficient use data, the agency uses "worst case" use assumptions. MAAGCS left the meeting with gained knowledge of the importance of being proactive in providing actual pesticide use data to help EPA make sound decisions.

During 2002, MAAGCS continued to stay politically active. In March, the chapter helped defeat an onerous bill that would have required costly federal criminal background checks for pesticide applicators and persons with access to restricted use pesticides. The anti-pesticide bill had been introduced as part of homeland security legislation. MAAGCS testified against the bill, which was defeated during the session. In May of that same year, MAAGCS joined more than two hundred businesses to form Businesses for the Bay, which supports environmental stewardship, education and outreach to enhance and protect the Chesapeake Bay. MAAGCS have been actively involved in this coalition and in October 2002 co-sponsored a one-day Audubon International seminar on developing an environmental plan at the golf course and created an annual golf tournament to raise money to help support the chapter's government relations efforts.

The MAAGCS has made government and public relations activities a critical component of its activities and their efforts have paid off. Numerous government and industry contacts, including the Washington Council of Governments and the Maryland Department of Agriculture, now call on MAAGCS when they need input into new programs or regulations that affect golf courses.