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Same name causes council confusion

Two different groups, both with the name Audubon, prompts clarification as to which group's environmental standards a local development will meet.

By MICHAEL SANDLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 30, 2000


WEST MEADOWS -- When environmentalists criticized a new 1,600-home golf community planned in northern New Tampa, the developer's attorney Joel Tew offered an olive branch.

At a July 13 public hearing, Tew told Tampa City Council members that Grand Hampton's golf course would meet Audubon International standards. Presumably, that meant the 18-hole layout would have the stamp of approval from one of the oldest, most trusted names in conservation.

But on Thursday, when the council met to vote on the proposal, Gerard Caddick showed up to clarify something.

Caddick is president of the Tampa chapter of the National Audubon Society. And the National Audubon Society does not sanction golf courses, he said. He also told council members Audubon International has no connection with the historic conservation group.

"I was really up there making sure the council understood this course did not have the blessing of the Audubon Society," said Caddick, who opposed the Grand Hampton project.

Since 1905, the National Audubon Society has championed environmental causes in North America and abroad. The group was named after John James Audubon, a famed ornithologist and wildlife artist. With more than 500,000 members and 508 chapters in the Americas alone, it is evolved into of the largest conservation groups ever.

It has also inspired others to adopt the Audubon name. Since it is a family name, it is not protected by copyright, Caddick said.

"It's a little disappointing for the Audubon Society because a lot of people are cashing in on the good name," Caddick told the council. He agreed that Audubon International has valid criteria for certifying golf courses, "but it should be clear, it's a business operation."

Caddick was referring to the fact that golf courses may pay thousands of dollars compiling the data to win Audubon International certification.

But according to its web site, Audubon International is a not-for-profit group based in Selkirk, N.Y., that promotes sustainable resource management. It achieves this mission by "administering, coordinating and conducting scientific research education programs and demonstration projects." One of it's two main sponsors is the United States Golf Association.

"It's a different organization" than the National Audubon Society, said Joellen Zeh, who oversees the group's Cooperative Sanctuary System. That division is responsible for certifying 213 golf courses in the United States, as well as schools, businesses and backyards. It costs $100, only $35 for back yards.

The group has certified 32 golf courses in Florida including three in Hillsborough County -- Tampa Palms Golf and Country Club, Tournament Players Club of Tampa Bay and River Hills Country Club.

"There are lots of different Audubon societies," she said, "different mission statements and programs."

News of the two organizations surprised many at City Hall, including Tew. He said his client had no idea there was a difference between Audubon International and the better-known National Audubon Society.

City Council approved the project, but with a condition: Toll Brothers should continue to seek certification from Audubon International. However, the council also asked the developer consult the National Audubon Society before building the course.

Tew agreed, with a condition of his own: his client only seek input, not certification.

"In fact, the (National) Audubon Society does not have criteria," Tew said after speaking with Caddick after the council meeting. "The only entity that has criteria is Audubon International."

- Michael Sandler can be reached at (813) 226-3472 or sandler@sptimes.com.

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