Dan's Outside

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Boy Scouts, Nature, and the American Way

From an article in SFGate:

The last large stand of woods in a Seattle suburb. A scenic canyon just outside of Los Angeles. Rangelands deep in the heart of Texas…. All are set to be felled, filled and bulldozed so that stately homes, a reservoir and perhaps even a hydroelectric plant may one day rise in their place.

Aside from their now unspoiled, ecologically sensitive settings, the lands share a common bond: The Boy Scouts of America sold them for development.



January 31, 2009 - Posted by | Commentary, Environment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. As a former scout and sometime camp employee, I guess it’s up to me to offer a defense of the BSA. In short: we hate selling camps as much as anybody. “My” camp is over 60 years old. If it were sold, we would lose 3 generations of history with it. It’s nearly happened more than once.

    The problem is, BSA membership has been dropping for decades. Fewer scouts mean fewer camps. Most camps nowadays run half empty all summer. Unfortunately, most councils are structured such that their camps are cash flow positive, in order to support other, money-losing activities. Should a camp stop making money, or start losing money, it gets the axe pretty quick.

    Frankly, the BSA is not a conservation organization. Sure, they try to instill a conservationist ethic in their members, but they aren’t the Nature Conservancy. Selling a camp means more money for other programs, subsidized activity and membership fees for scouts from underprivileged families, and fewer kids pestering you to buy popcorn. Ideally, every former camp property would be preserved, but that has to be weighed against the prospect of taking a financial loss. It sucks, but what else can be done?

    Comment by mpjones | February 4, 2009

  2. While the Scouts are not “the Nature Conservancy,” one presumes that part of their goal is to instill understanding and enjoyment of the natural world and outdoor experiences – not to mention the “conservationist ethic” than you mention.

    Perhaps a loss of focus is part of what has led to the decline of scouting. It the highest goal is “positive cash flow” to the organization from the camps, then one wonders what drives scouting.

    In order to act in a way consistent with its goal of promoting a “conservationist ethic,” the Scouts might consider the effects on those who share that ethic when determining what to do with these properties. You mention the Nature Conservancy, a group that works to acquire rights to and protect properties that might otherwise go to developers. One wonders whether the Scouts have tried working with that very group to find mutually beneficial ways to handle the transfer of these properties.

    Comment by Dan Mitchell | February 4, 2009

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