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Backpacker Mag biased against BSA?

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This just goes to show why mandatory training for all boy scout leaders is so desperately needed. The story was a true one and if I remember correctly it was an LDS untrained leader and his troop (what a surprise)who were responsible for the fire. If as an organization we want to project a positive and competent outdoor image then we better be pretty darn sure only trained leaders are taking kids out into the woods. Otherwise we deservedly ought to be criticized for our incompetence.


This was not an attack against the scouts as much as pointing out a large failure in BSA policies, that scoutmaster and the CO should be held accountable, and the BSA better start changing training policies to keep knucklehead leaders like that out of the program or they also could be held liable.

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I dropped Outside magazine many years back when I got tired of their occasional anti-BSA articles.


I kept Backpacker for a while (dropped for other reasons), and one reason was that when they did their occasional article on scouting/bsa, it was fairly even handed and decent. I found them fair to the BSA.


They were one of the exhibitors with the OA's TOAP at the 2001 National Jamboree.


I don't see the items you mention as being 'anti-BSA'. If they did a long article (several pages) on scouting and it was anti-BSA (like Outside always did), I might agree.


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Yah, the real incident in Utah was dumb, eh? Just another in a long series of bad scoutin' incidents that have soured land managers, particularly in the Rocky Mountain states. What was truly dispicable, though, was the BSA legal filing trying to dodge responsibility. Not entirely the BSA's fault, because obviously the case is being handled by the BSA's insurers, and they're going to do everything possible to get out from under a $14M judgment. Still, it hits the news as the BSA's action, not their insurer's.


We put more kids in the field, though, so yah, we attract more heat. We put less experienced leaders in the field with those kids than any commercial group. Our groups tend to be much larger than average, so they have a bigger social impact. And typically, we don't establish the same kind of long-term relationships with land managers that the commercial groups do. Troops are often one-shot visitors to a particular area, not regulars.


In our area, college & weekend drunks are worse than troops, though. :(


Yah, so some incidents are just goin' to be par for the course, eh? But this negative stuff should be a reminder to us that we need to do better.


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This past summer, I set up my camp near a Boy Scout troop. Part of my routine after setting up camp is to "police the area", picking up leftover trash in my campsite (I rather dislike the idea of living among other people's trash, even if it is just for a night or two). Rangers and Campground Hosts invariably mention how much cleaner my site looks after I "move in". I use a trash-picker gadget someone gave to me that I always keep in my truck. My activities gained the interest of the Scouts and their leaders as they watched me pick up the trash and continue to pick up trash along the road as I walked to the dumpster to dispose of it. On the way back, a couple of young Scouts got up the nerve to ask me why I was picking up trash. I told them "because I was a Boy Scout and that's what Scouts do". They ran back to their dining fly and one yelled out "Mr. "Smith" - that guy said he was picking up trash because that's what Scouts are supposed to do". Later that night, Mr. "Smith" and his co-leader came by and introduced themselves. They admitted to being a little embarrased because they hadn't instilled in their Scouts that sense of respect and caring for the outdoors yet. We had a friendly chat and talked a little about LNT and where they could find resources for it. Sunday came, and both I and the Scout Troop happened to be breaking down camp at the same time. They all started piling into their vehicles to head out when they saw me "policing the area" one more time (always leave the campsite better than you find it, that's my motto). The SPL hopped out of the truck he was in and hollered "hey guys, we haven't finished breaking down camp yet - remember, we need to pick up the trash". The other boys piled out of the car and they went to work - even hitting a couple of nearby vacant sites. The smile on Mr. "Smith's" face was noticable a mile away. Sometimes it's all about quiet role-modeling - even from unexpected quarters.


As for Backpacker Magazine - I'm not surprised that you couldn't find the "liberal bias" in it, because there isn't any. Backpacker's editorial stances are about getting people to go hiking, backpacking and camping, and about bringing the kids along too. There's been plenty of positive items about the Boy Scouts, and about people that learned their skills in the Scouts. Their most "radical" position is about people taking responsibility for their actions in the outdoors, and the October blurb certainly fits in with that position. I've always appreciated that Backpacker is one of the few magazines out there that showcases competing views on issues facing our wilderness without taking a stance either way - letting the reader decide which argument is stronger. Plus lets face it, starting a 14,000 acre wildlands fire by starting a campfire during a total burn ban, is a pretty bone-headed move. And while the BSA may certainly have a good case for not taking responsibility for the actions of this Troop, it would have been far better for public relations, and for practical considerations, for the BSA to have made some kind of financial settlement with the governments involved. On the PR front, it would have shown the BSA as living up to the principles of personal responsibility it espouses, and on the practical front, you want good relations with the governmental agencies that you want to spring in to action if there is ever a wildlands fire in Philmont, or another Scout camp.



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  • 2 weeks later...

The real problem with the bad publicity in the press, and with most every outdoorsman against BSA outfits in the wilderness is that in general the Adult Leaders spend little time training the Scouts in appropriate behavior in the wilderness. This necessary subject is what we call "Expedition Behavior." The problem is with the Adult Scouters in that most are woefully unprepared themselves for the wilderness, so how can they teach the subject? Most even lack appropriate Wilderness First Aid skills, something that everyone who leads anyone into the outdoors should have. They also lack the most important outdoor leadership skill, experience.


My best advice...go backpacking, rafting, climbing, caving etc with other adults who are into the recreation that you like. The Sierra Club is great for that. Its healthy, fun and then you can use the knowledge you gain on your Scouts. Cross pollinate your new skills to your Scouts - who will soak this technical information up like sponges. The more you give them the better they like it.


We always started with technical rock climbing, practiced camping with no frills-leave-no-trace-backpacking and followed with mountaineering and teaching the boys to run their own whitewater rafts. Retention was not a problem. The Wilderness is the greatest teacher for boys and adults, but only if you approach it with respect, knowledge, and that "Expedition Behavior."

When you do that, you gain the respect of the professional rangers and others that use the backcountry.





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The Outdoor Code

As an American,

I will do my best to -

Be clean in my outdoor manners. I will treat the outdoors as a heritage. I will take care of it for myself and others I will keep my trash and garbage out of lakes, streams, fields, woods, and roadways.

Be careful with fire. I will prevent wildfire. I will build my fires only where they are appropriate. When I have finished using a fire, I will make sure it is cold out. I will leave a clean fire ring, or remove all evidence of my fire.

Be considerate in the outdoors. I will treat public and private property with respect. I will use low-impact methods of hiking and camping. and

Be conservation minded I will learn how to practice good conservation of soil, waters, forests, minerals, grasslands, wildlife, and energy. I will urge others to do the same.

Learn it. Live it. Love it.

It should follow the Pledge of Allegiance at every Scout meeting.

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