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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Florida BMP program: It's now the law

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With water-use restrictions and fertilizer and pesticide bans making headlines on a regular basis, it is difficult to argue against the benefits of a BMP program.

Golf course superintendents do not have to adopt or become certified in a BMP to be a good steward of the environment. So, anyone who raises the question of "what's in it for me?" when it comes to BMP certification need only look at Florida for an answer.

The BMP program developed by faculty from the University of Florida for the state's golf course superintendents officially became law there on July 1. House Bill 967, known as the Golf Course Best Management Practices Certification was introduced Dec. 17, 2021. It was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 20 and became law July 1. The bill passed through the Florida House of Representatives 112-1 on March 2 and the Senate 38-0.

"When it was introduced, I was a little surprised it made it," said Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., professor at the University of Florida and associate center director of the West Florida Research and Education Center in Jay, Florida. "I was really surprised it passed both chambers with one no vote."

The bill provides some level of relief for superintendents who are certified in the UF BMP program that has been adopted by the state's GCSA chapter. Certified superintendents are exempt for some restrictive ordinances, such as fertilizer bans and rules regulating water use.

There are more than 100 fertilizer bans on the books in Florida.

"Golf was getting really close to being included in those," Unruh said. "Most prohibit fertilizer applications from May through October. "I'm not sure how you manage a golf course in Florida if you can't apply fertilizer from May through October."

The law does not provide blanket immunity, however.

"Superintendents have to be part of the solution. Just because you have a book on the shelf, it doesn't make you part of the solution." ~ Bryan Unruh

The bill does not provide relief in areas adjacent to Basin Management Action Plan areas, sensitive watersheds that fall under the Clean Water Act of 1972.

"This is an important step," Unruh said. "It is important to remember this does not give superintendents carte blanche in every situation."

The inaugural version of Florida's BMP program, which Unruh helped write, was developed 15 years ago. It served as the bones for a national BMP program that Unruh and his colleagues at UF were charged with writing. The program was brought online during the pandemic and is currently in the process of being updated.

Participation in the BMP program has been on the uptick since the bill was signed into law by the governor.

"This is a huge win. It recognizes the hard work of golf course superintendents, but it's not a carte blanche exemption," Unruh said. 

"Superintendents have to be part of the solution. Just because you have a book on the shelf, it doesn't make you part of the solution."

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