The Greenwash Brigade

The newest Boy Scout merit badge: Clearcutting and development

Heidi Siegelbaum Feb 10, 2009

(Photo credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer/Gilbert W. Arias)

The Company Line(s):

“The Boy Scouts were green before it was cool be to be green.” … “Our mission is kids, not trees.” … “We’re being good stewards of the land. You can take our word for it.” … “The outdoors is the laboratory in which Boy Scouts learn ecology and practice conservation of nature’s resources.” … “As a general principle, all public charities are bound to their fiduciary obligation to manage their assets for the benefits of their constituents.”

Boy Scout Reality Camp (just the facts sir):

  • 1/3 of all Scouting Councils have conducted timber harvests
  • 400 timber harvests over 20 years=millions of dollars in revenue
  • Intensive timber harvests and development= 34,000 acres of potential conservation learning… poof!… gone
  • Not welcome: gays, atheists, agnostics, United Way funding
  • Myopic and hateful exclusion leads to loss of revenue, leads to clearcutting forests, yet insistence that they are a good land steward.

In a searing indictment of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), whose heart and soul is connected with wholesome outdoors activities and nature-driven badges, Hearst newspapers
revealed a 20 year pattern of intensive forest clearcuts, deals with developers, sloppy timber harvests (many supported by incomplete and inaccurate information about wildlife habitat, dangerously steep slopes or conducted contrary to park or state regulations) and environmental outcomes which were exacerbated by wholly insufficient monitoring and enforcement by state forest agencies.

Oh yes, and let’s not forget salaries between $100k and $300k for Council execs who were cash-strapped enough to conduct timber harvests and clearcuts.

In many cases, the logging was conducted in ways that harmed endangered salmon, other wildlife habitat, stream water quality and led to erosion, inflaming local communities and leading to legal action, protests and embarrassed Scouts.

Raising the bar on hypocrisy

You can get a Forestry Merit Badge — Scouts earn this honor when they can proficiently “describe contributions forests make to … clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, fisheries habitat (and) threatened and endangered species,” among other requirements.
BSA can describe the contributions forest make to these ecological functions yet defend their destruction. In a 29-page response (PDF) to the newspapers which ran this story, BSA states that its conservation program’s emphasis has been developed to “create a positive commitment to improving the environment and conserving natural resources through firsthand experiences and ‘learning by doing.'”

Some would argue that the “firsthand experience” folks had in mind was land conservation, not clearcutting and developing that land. In the course of being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent, the Boy Scouts of America managed to destroy rather than conserve land that non-profits and land trusts would have died to purchase, and I, at least, can’t think of any particular way in which these traits lend themselves to conservation. How about reverence for nature as opposed to cash?

This story caught the attention of wonderfully naughty Steven Colbert who just announced the Boy Scouts as Alpha Dog of the Week.:

Watch it and then reconsider the integrity of the brand behind your now dusty badges issued by Voldemort.

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