Recent reportage from, among others, The Seattle Post Inelligencer takes aim at Scout Councils for logging Scout Reservations suggesting murky business ties with volunteers and a hypocritical attitude towards conservation. The journalists that created these stories have researched records attempt to paint sound management practices as hypocritical and infer some sort of nationwide collusion to turn our camps into cash with a total disregard for principle. Their simplistic analysis has fallen short.
No individual and certainly no organization gets it right all the time, including the BSA. To my mind blind loyalty is as egregious an error as irrational attack. The logging story is based on broad misconceptions that demote it from responsible journalism to a fruitless search for nonexistent scandal.
Contrary to popular belief the local Scout Councils are not micromanaged out of an office somewhere in Texas. Councils are run by a group of community volunteers who constitute an executive committee. Local Scouting professionals serve at the pleasure and direction of that committee. Management decisions about local camps and reservations are made locally by the volunteers. Management plans are not taken lightly and any executive committee spends a fair amount of time formulating them.
Logging and conservation are not mutually exclusive. Camps, state and national parks and other public and private lands use logging as a means of fire suppression and maintaining healthy forests, the revenues created are not necessarily the object of these strategies. Logging is not a windfall chosen by cash-strapped organizations to fill out a budget, it is an obligation of responsible forest management.
These stories also capitalize on disaffected volunteers who protest these management practices. With the best of intentions vocal, reactive volunteers can do a great deal of damage to the very cause that they claim to champion. We volunteers have a heartfelt sense of ownership for our camps. We spend a great deal of time maintaining and improving them and tend to react when we perceive they are being mismanaged. But our perspective is often shortsighted. Forest management thinks in decades, we tend to think of next summer and the appearance of our campsite.
My beloved 80+ year-old camp has seen some major changes in the 25 years I have been involved with it. We logged a big section selectively some years ago, we have suffered a plague of gypsy moths and have made improvements that changed the face of our camp. I've agreed with some measures and have been bothered by others. What I have come to understand, though, is that the camp is not cast in aspic - it changes whether we like it or not.
I hate to see trees cut and the general mess caused by logging, it aint pretty. At the same time I realize that it is a measure necessary to maintaining a managed environment and every Scout Camp is a managed environment.
A response from the Chief Seattle Council Executive committee is available here