The Boy Scouts of America, known for its dedication to conservation, faces scrutiny for the logging and commercial sales of land often donated for recreational purposes.
A Hearst Newspapers investigation found that dozens of Boy Scout councils nationwide repeatedly logged in or near protected wildlife habitat, allegedly disregarding conservation and planning policies.
At 99 years old and boasting 2.8 million members, the Boy Scouts is one of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organizations.
However, membership has fallen by 600,000 in a decade, and the Boy Scouts ban on gays and atheists in the ranks has further diminished funding.
Public records indicate that many councils practice sustainable forestry that benefits local habitat — and Scout representatives say that trees are renewable and that logging is often used as a last resort to meet budget needs.
Yet some critics say highly paid regional Boy Scout managers — some receiving salaries in excess of $200,000 — are encouraged to build the organizational coffers, which held $1 billion in 2006.
Boy Scouts councils have logged at least 34,000 acres, including numerous “salvage harvests” conducted after floods and fires — something experts say can prevent local ecosystems from recovering from disaster.
In some cases, regional councils have logged or sold properties that were originally donated for other purposes, resulting in lawsuits and injunctions.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that 400 acres of Idaho land donated to the Scouts in 1947 for “camp and recreational purposes” has been clear cut and logged repeatedly as the result of ambiguous language and legal loopholes.
One local Scout official said that the land had become unsuitable for camping over time due to risks from improper zoning, security and natural disasters.
He also said the original intent of the Idaho donation has been honored, because logging revenue goes to recreation-related purposes.
“Profit trumps preservation for Boy Scout councils nationwide / They logged, sold thousands of acres of prime lands”
Seattle Post-Intelligence, January 29, 2009
“Scouting can pay off big for group’s executives”
San Antonio Express News, January 31, 2009
“Scout councils defend logging of their lands”
San Francisco Chronicle, January 30, 2009
“Donated scout land often ends up as cash cow”
San Francisco Chronicle, January 31, 2009
“Michiganders hit the road to celebrate 100 years of Boy Scouting”
Detroit Free Press, February 3, 2009