“Leave No Trace” has always been an honored credo of the Boy Scouts of America. The trumpeted tenet is supposed to refer to ethical guidelines which preach having a minimal impact on land, nature and wildlife. But according to a recent investigation, the Boy Scouts have been caught logging over 34,000 acres of pristine forest over the last 20 years, including 60 clearcuts and 35 salvage harvests. They’ve literally left no trace– of the forests.
Furthermore, the survey showed that most of the acreage was logged to turn a backdoor profit, and there’s evidence of corruption. A number of Scout councils submitted inaccurate and misleading logging plans, and allegedly disregarded rules and regulations which were in place to protect wildlife and the watershed. Some of the deals even involve cozy relationships with private companies and state regulators.
Adding to the shady dealings, many Scout executives used the profits for high salaries and unjustified pay raises, despite the fact that overall funding has decreased for the organization over the last several decades. Even at local and regional levels, Scout executives can rake in between $100,000 to $300,000 annually.
In one case from Southwest Washington, 12 acres of 80-year-old Douglas Firs were clearcut despite state logging regulations which were instituted to protect endangered salmon. Although the violations can bring heavy fines, Forestry Department enforcement is often rare. Some of the logs from that cut were turned into a $20,000 new roof for an old lodge; now it’s a grim reminder of the evergreens which once towered over it.
In another case, the Scouts bent rules to salvage timber along the Illinois River watershed in Oregon, which was declared one of the nation’s Wild and Scenic Rivers in 1984. The practice of salvage harvesting might better be called savage harvesting due to its highly destructive impact on the forest ecosystem.
Despite the evidence against them, national Scout spokesmen have disavowed the reports, citing that the Scouts have always stood for good stewardship. But one Spokane-based council executive was quoted excusing the accusations, saying “…our mission is kids, not trees.”
So far, there’s no news yet that any Forestry Merit Badges have been rescinded due to the allegations.