Boy Scouts Organization Favours Cash Over Environment
When the words "boy scout" come to mind, we often envision young gentlemen helping old ladies across the street, learning how to tie complex knots, camping and fishing. For a long time, Boy Scouts have represented the "All-American" ideal of what young men should represent. As it turns out, the organization itself has not been setting a very good example.
A Hearst Newspapers investigation has found dozens of cases over the past 20 years of local Boy Scout councils logging or selling prime woodlands to big timber interests, developers or others, turning quick money and often doing so instead of seeking ways to preserve such lands.
"In public, they say they want to teach kids about saving the environment," said Jane Childers, a longtime Scouting volunteer in Washington who has fought against Scouts' logging. "But in reality, it's all about the money."
As an organization that has long touted itself as a protector and conservationist of nature, this "behind-the-scenes" expose could further tarnish the organization's reputation.
In some cases, councils have sought to use revenues from logging or land sales to make up for funding lost because of the organization's controversial bans on gays and atheists from membership and employment rolls.
"The Boy Scouts had to suffer the consequences for sticking by their moral values," said Eugene Grant, president of the Portland-based Cascade Pacific Council's board of directors.
"There's no question they lost membership and funding because of it. I think every council has looked at ways to generate funds ... and logging is one of them."
The investigation -- a nationwide review by five Hearst newspapers of more than 400 timber harvests, court papers, property records, tax filings and other documents since 1990 -- also found:
- Scouting councils have logged across at least 34,000 acres -- a figure that vastly undercounts the actual number of harvests conducted and acreage cut, as forestry records nationwide are incomplete or nonexistent.
- More than 100 Scouting councils have conducted timber harvests -- one-third of all Boy Scout councils nationwide.
- At least 26 councils have logged in areas with or near protected wildlife habitat at least 53 times, a number also underrepresented.
- Councils have conducted at least 60 clearcuts and 35 salvage harvests -- logging that some scholars and ecologists say can hurt the environment and primarily aims to make money.
- Several councils submitted logging plans with inaccurate and incomplete information, and in some cases, disregarded rules or conditions established to protect wildlife, streams or other resources.
- In some cases nationwide, Scout logging and land deals have involved cozy relationships in which Scouting councils have conducted business with current or former Scouting volunteers, their private companies, employers or in one case, a state regulator.
Scouting officials generally defended logging as sound land stewardship that, as a byproduct, has reaped financial rewards to benefit Scouting programs.