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Reinstate Environmentalist, Eagle Scout Kim Kuska as Scouter

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  • Reinstate Environmentalist, Eagle Scout Kim Kuska as Scouter

    National, before releasing Sustainability Merit Badge next month at Jambo, strongly consider reinstating environmentalist Kim Kuska as a scouter!

    from Gannett

    Since the 1970s, the Eagle Scout and adult Scout leader-turned-whistle-blower (Kim Kuska) has worked to protect the plant from extinction at Camp Pico Blanco, a Boy Scout camp nestled in the mountains along the Little Sur River south of Monterey, Calif.
    The camp is home to nearly 50 percent of all known specimens of Dudley’s lousewort, a flowering fern-like plant found in only three places in the world.

    But over the past four decades, Scout officials and camp staff have threatened its existence repeatedly by harvesting old-growth trees it needs to survive, crushing some of the few remaining plants and introducing potentially competitive species. Under state law, it is illegal to harm a plant that is classified as rare.
    The camp also cut down several trees in the old-growth forest in 2011 without a permit, a Scout official acknowledged.

    At each turn, Kuska was there to document the misdeeds.

    The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is investigating the 2011 incident as a result of questions from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
    While the Boy Scouts have drawn national attention for their intolerance toward gays, the organization also has compiled a poor record on environmental protection. In 2009, Hearst Newspapers reported that the Scouts clear-cut tens of thousands of acres of forestland across the country and operated a dam at Camp Pico Blanco that killed at least 30 federally protected steelhead trout. The camp installed a fish ladder as part of a no-fault settlement...

    more info and photos at these links

    My $0.02
    Last edited by RememberSchiff; 06-16-2013, 07:45 AM.

  • #2
    LNT sounds kind of hollow in the face of this kind of thing doesn't it? If BSA broke the law, BSA should confront its crime and offer its defence in court. If someone in BSA authorized criminal activity, they should face criminal charges. Regardless, this is a great example for the boys to learn from in the Citizenship and the Environmental Science merit badges. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.


    • Basementdweller
      Basementdweller commented
      Editing a comment
      It is not the BSA but local council.

  • #3
    The fact that they pulled Kuska's membership over this is troubling.. It screams that they were not ignorant of their mis-doings, but were upset that they were brought to task for it. I agree with packsaddle, don't preach to us about LNT when you will blatently do as you please and punish those who care about the environment enough to be activists on it's behalf.


    • #4
      For the most part I agree with Kuska but if he indeed was planting seeds in high traffic areas in order to disrupt camp operations I would kick him out also.


      • #5
        What annoys me about these discussions is the erroneous use of "BSA." "Boy Scouts of America" didn't cut down trees and screw with the endangered fern, the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council's two predecessor councils did. BSA didn't revoke this guy's membership, Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council did. The old growth trees they cut were cut with a permit, only "some" after it had expired (one in 2010 out of 38 total), and while they should not have done it, cutting them before or after the permit expired doesn't change the fact that the county had no problem with them being cut. So, too, the issue continues with the 2009 report: 1/3 of councils had conducted logging, not "BSA." But even when Hearst reports that "1/3" it must be noted that those 400 instances aren't equally distributed, some councils log regularly; 34 instances went to only one council (Portland). Properly managed, logging is not even a sustainability or environmental issue.

        As for revoking the guy's membership, we're given very little context, just his side of the story. But what little context we get makes it clear that he went off the reservation and made himself a problem by planting the ferns wherever he wanted rather than working with the camp/council. Working in the nature lodge 30 years ago and having a passion for the fern plus a member card doesn't give the guy the right to start planting an endangered species in the middle of camp. Let's think about this logically: You're in love with an endangered fern, you want to proliferate it so you collect its rare seeds, then you plan them ..... in front of the dining hall and health lodge? No. You plant them where they'll thrive.
        It's one thing to work on a problem, it's another thing to make yourself a nuisance.

        As for the petition, it calls Kuska a "noted environmentalist." Google him. Nada. He's a middle school science teacher and apparently a farmer with a 2013 arrest for trespassing who has a penchant for nature and birdwatching, not a noted environmentalist.

        The Council was wrong, and Kuska was wrong. In the end, Kuska should be reinstated, but with the understanding that he's to either stay away from the camp, or that the camp and Kuska will work together.
        Last edited by Scouter99; 06-16-2013, 02:38 PM.


        • #6
          ferns are simply going to naturally grow in that camp including around the camping areas and buildings that doesn't mean someone is planting them. while kuska is the only one here actually making an effort to protect a protected species naturally this isnt in line with the local council. they logged 200+ year old trees illegally without any punishment and then threw out the only person who seems interested in protecting the plants and trees on the camp grounds. - marking out protected species in no way disrupts camp operations unless you think the camp is better off clear cutting everything so no species left there to protect.


          • Scouter99
            Scouter99 commented
            Editing a comment
            Settle down. Once again: The camp applied for and received a permit to remove 48 trees that were damaged by a wildfire. The same county that cited the camp in 1989 also permitted the camp to cut a limited number of fire-damaged trees. That qualifies as "clear cutting" only in your hyperbolic emotionally-charged world.
            They didn't even cut all 48 down, they cut down 38. The majority were cut while the permit was valid, one was not. In terms of the fern, it doesn't matter whether the same tree was cut down in 2010 or 2008.

        • #7
          Quickly Googling "Kim Kuska" . He apparently is a acknowledged contributor in some research papers and field guides, is a field trip leader for Audubon Society, quite the birder, helped rescue a beached baby killer whale in May 1979, "noted" observer of Santa Cruz Bird Club and apparently several others, former biology teacher, involved in scouts for 50 years, ...of course "noted" is a relative term.


          • Scouter99
            Scouter99 commented
            Editing a comment
            I dug deeper based on your result; found a couple of papers buried on page 8 of results. His only contributions to research papers are counting birds and other fieldwork, which isn't really anything. Relative, indeed.

            I'm simply saying the man may be a really knowledgeable person and gung-ho, but counting birds and butterflies doesn't make a person a "noted environmentalist." It makes a person a bird-counter. I've been an extra in movies, I'm not a "noted actor." Kuska is a hobbyist. I don't appreciate being misled when someone is asking me to "force change."

            Anyway, none of us has the full story, and I'd be in favor of him being reinstated.
            Last edited by Scouter99; 06-16-2013, 07:04 PM.

        • #8
          First, it is not a fern. It is a flowering plant. Ferns don't have seeds. Kuska evidently knew that much at least.

          Next, his credentials are not relevant if this species is listed as T&E (it is, BTW). If so, and a council did this, then as far as the public is concerned (me too) BSA did it. Unless you can make a good argument that councils are not administrative units of BSA. In that case, like Ross Perot, I'm all ears.

          I couldn't care less if the guy was a bank robber or some illiterate bum. If what he claims is true IS true, then BSA (through its representatives) has some explaining to do. BSA should step up and explain. And if they've committed a crime, they need to take responsibility and accept the consequences.

          As for reinstatement, as it has been explained to me many times in the the form of veiled threats...BSA can remove anyone from membership at any time and they do not have to give a reason. The guy got crosswise of the council and they kicked him out. He blew the whistle and paid the consequences. Now it's time for someone else to take their consequences if they've done what he claims they did.


          • #9
            I'm sure that the county officials who issued a permit to destroy habitat will get right on top of that.


            • #10
              From 3000 miles away, I can’t pretend to know about the specifics of what has been going on recently, but having been on the staff of that camp from 1984 to 1993, I can say I am a little aware of the history.

              First, let me say that I respect Kim Kuska very much. I earned my Environmental Science MB and world conservation awards through his direction at the camp’s Nature Lodge. I also know that in myself and many others, we were instilled with a sense of respect for many of the rare and endangered flora and fauna at that camp, including the dudley’s lousewart, rare albino redwoods, and even spotted owls.

              As for “noted environmentalist”, I don’t know his academic credentials or publication record, but I think most people from the Monterey / Santa Cruz area would consider him an environmentalist of some note. It has been the major portion of his identity for the nearly 30 years I’ve known him. He also never impressed me as the “we must leave nature to nature” or “man go home” type. He often participated in backwoods activities in the Ventana wilderness, with Scouts and church groups alike.

              From my perspective, much of the issues in the late 80’s came down to the actions of a few specific individuals, whom, employee or not, I cannot tell if they acted of their own accord or with the Council’s actual blessing. Many Scouters at the time believed that these individuals were trying to set up a means for the Council to sell the camp, but I don’t know if that was true. During this time, Kim was treated as persona-non-grata as he was a constant thorn in their side. I too shared some frustration with Kim, as his actions did influence the programs we were trying to put on; and it was not often apparent what the actual issues were or if there were alternative methods to mitigate the issue.

              While I was there, we did take precautions to protect known dudley’s lousewart growths and other plants. In the case of the albino redwoods, we only showed the ones about a mile from the central camp to the Scouts so that the ones that were actually in one of the campsites could remain unknown and hidden. I also only remember a single planned cut of an old growth redwood during that time, and a couple natural falls that were also logged, but admit that I was less aware of actions outside the camp central areas or things done off-season.

              The dam, and dredging (which was the real issue at the time) were the constant problems which endangered the camp’s ability to even have a water program.

              Some time after I left, the Council decided to invest in the camp and went on a building spree, putting in the Dining hall building and other decent toilet facilities; but even on my last visit a few years ago, when I actually did see Kim Kuska and many other old friends, the camp is/was still largely undeveloped.

              That said, I hold the following opinions on what I have read here and in the attached articles.
              1. The Council does need to be responsible for their mistakes or other actions taken outside permits.
              2. If Kim was actually planting seeds, there would have been many much more suitable areas at that camp than near the central facilities to do so, as I said, much of the camp is undeveloped.
              3. If Kim was planting seeds without permission, then the Council would be well within their rights to require supervision while at the camp or even to provide notice that he was no longer permitted on the camp property.
              4. If Kim was using his position as a Scouter to advance a political/environmental addenda then, I do believe the Council/BSA were within their rights to deny his membership renewal, as this is not a permitted activity – However, from the materials available, it appears that his actions and “reports” were conducted as a “concerned citizen” or from his environmental group memberships, in which case I do not think that denying his membership in Scouts should be allowed.
              When we allow the BSA or their representatives to punish any of us (Scout/Scouter) for actions taken while not representing ourselves as Scouts, and while not fundamentally violating the Scout Oath or Law, even if it ultimately inconveniences the BSA/et. al, I think this sets a dangerous precedent that we should all be concerned about. If the only ‘improper act’ was blowing the whistle or embarrassing the BSA/et. al by pointing out their own improprieties – then this is the wrong act to take.

              Then again, this is ultimately the same organization that seems to be pretending that Green Bar Bill didn’t exist because his message was/is currently inconvenient.


              • #11
                Welcome to the forums! And thanks for your take on this issue. It is helpful to have someone who actually knows something about it to offer their insights.


                • Twocubdad
                  Twocubdad commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Really. That never happens around here.

              • #12
                Admittedly I've been a lurker since I rejoined with Scouting for my son two years ago. I only created the account a few months ago, because I was going to consider getting into the membership debate - but then thought better of it. No matter how well reasoned my thoughts on the subject, I wouldn't change the mind of anyone on either side of the issue.

                I guess this one was just too close to home for me to remain silent.


                • #13
                  The actions made by the operators of the Pico Blanco camp are repugnant and contrary to the mission of the Boy Scouts of America, which bears some of the shame and bad press (whether or not the national organization is actually responsible). This affects all Scouts, everywhere, and needs to be put right. Mr. Kuska must be reinstated. The operators of this Pico Blanco property need to have a nice sit-down with BSA, and ought to be asked to make a decision about whether THEY want to continue in scouting. If they do, they need to get with the actual program. That includes environmental stewardship, last time I checked. Mistakes are made, sure, but I see a consistent pattern and concerted course of action to extract financial value from a property, and actions to silence critics. Kinda reminds me of a coal company, really.

                  PS. The idea floated on this forum that Mr. Kuska is not an authority, because he's not a "noted" authority, is very troubling. Scouting at its best, empowers youth to make positive decisions and affect the world. Nobody starts out life as a "noted" anything. They become, by doing. Mr. Kuska was acting for positive change, by doing, under what appear to be sometimes hostile conditions. What a fabulous role model for youth everywhere. The guy is a hero.

                  Eric Muhs, Eagle Scout


                  • #14
                    Welcome to the forums, Eric. I agree with you regarding 'authority'. Keep us informed of any new developments if you can.


                    • #15
                      The official statement from the Boy Scouts of America leadership is that Kuska was expelled for planting samples of the Dudley Lousewort in inconvenient areas; however, it is widely speculated that his whistleblowing contributed to the decision.

                      I am not naive enough to believe wholeheartedly in the BSA statement nor the statement so I won't be signing any petitions or lobbying an BSA executives. However, it is troubling that this has occurred - you'd think that grown men Kuska and the council leaders could work something out.