The Rising Sun Golf Course at Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in the Paradise Valley officially became Montana's first course to be named a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, making it one of 899 courses in the world to be certified for their sustainable practices.
"You know, being the first, while it was a surprise that nobody's done it, it once again goes back to our efforts to walk the talk and try to do things responsibly," said Mountain Sky Guest Ranch General Manager Yancey Arterburn.
Golf course superintendent Mike Petersen says he and his peers are always concerned with sustainability, but added that the certification process was a great way to reassess his practices.
"It's given me, as a golf course superintendent, the opportunity to really review our best practices and make sure we're doing things as well as we can do them," said Petersen.
Petersen said the real challenge is finding the balance between having a beautiful golf course and making as little environmental impact as possible.
"In the end, we're a golf course," said Petersen. "We want to have world-class conditions at a world-class resort. So, without sacrificing any of that, we do what we can to try and minimize the inputs on the golf course."
Arthur Black Family Foundation Director of Lands and Wildlife Whitney Tilt helped lead the certification process, and he said it was more about exchanging ideas on how to improve their practices, rather than checking boxes on a list.
"In several cases they came back and said, 'It looks like you're doing good, but did you consider doing this?' So, as Mike Petersen has said to me, it helped life my game," said Tilt.
And while they're the first course in Montana to earn the certification, Petersen hopes many more join them soon.
"I would hope that everyone eventually gets to this point," said Petersen. "It's been a lot of fun. It's been a lot of work, but a lot of fun."