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Logging on BSA owned land -- is this a problem?

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The following article appeared in the Seattle newspaper. While the article is fairly typical muck raking, it nevertheless raises interesting and important questions. I can easily believe that some logging has been done improperly, but I am not prepared to condemn all logging on all scout lands. Well managed logging may well be vitally important, not just for the economic benefit, in some situations. If I am not mistaken, a certain amount on ongoing logging takes place at Philmont. I would like to hear from others around the country about what they have seen.




Scout councils defend logging of their lands

Lewis Kamb, Hearst Newspapers


Friday, January 30, 2009



(01-29) 20:11 PST -- For nearly a century, the Boy Scouts of America have proudly described themselves as campside conservationists, good stewards of the land.


"The Boy Scouts were green before it was cool to be green," said national spokesman Deron Smith.


But in recent decades, local Boy Scout councils around the nation have ordered clear-cutting or other high-impact logging on tens of thousands of acres of forestland they own, often in a quest for a different kind of green: cash.


A Hearst Newspapers investigation has found dozens of cases in which the scouts ordered the logging of prime woodlands or sold them to big timber interests and developers, turning quick money instead of seeking ways to save the trees.


"In public, they say they want to teach kids about saving the environment," said Jane Childers, a longtime scouting volunteer in Washington state who has fought against scouts' logging. "But in reality, it's all about the money."


Scout councils nationwide have hired loggers to carry out clear-cutting and salvage harvests in ecosystems that provided habitat for a host of protected species, including salmon, timber wolves, bald eagles and spotted owls, records show.


At times, the scout councils have logged or sold wild properties that had been bequeathed specifically for use as scout camps.


In some cases, councils have sought revenues from logging or land sales to make up for funding lost because of the organization's controversial bans on gays and atheists.


"The Boy Scouts had to suffer the consequences for sticking by their moral values," said Eugene Grant, president of the Portland, Ore., Cascade Pacific Council's board of directors. "There's no question" that the Scouts' anti-gay, anti-atheist stance has cost the organization money, he said. As a result, he said, "every council has looked at ways to generate funds ... and logging is one of them."


The scouts insist they manage the wild lands they own with sensitivity and care.


But the investigation - a nationwide review by five newspapers of more than 400 timber harvests, court papers, property records, tax filings and other documents since 1990 - also found that:


-- Scout councils have ordered the logging of more than 34,000 acres of forests - perhaps far more, as forestry records nationwide are incomplete.


-- More than 100 scout groups - one-third of all Boy Scouts councils nationwide - have conducted timber harvests.


-- Councils logged in or near protected wildlife habitat at least 53 times.


-- Councils have authorized at least 60 clear-cutting operations and 35 salvage harvests, logging practices that some experts say harm the environment but maximize profits.


A renewable resource


Scout officials generally defended logging as sound land stewardship. Trees are a renewable resource, said some, and the income from logging is put back into scouting, providing needed funds to underwrite programs and maintain scout camps and other properties.


Forestry records confirm that many councils practice only sustainable forestry. They selectively log to remove hazard trees, reduce fire risks and improve habitat, records show. With the help of professional foresters, dozens of councils have implemented long-range management plans to better manage woodlands, records also show. But the investigation also revealed that some stewardship plans were ignored. Most scout timber harvests were relatively small - 50 to 100 acres - and occurred mainly in the Western timber states. But scout councils across the country have authorized logging, Hearst Newspapers found.


"Every time (a council) gets a new scout director, they call a state forester to come out and see if there is any good timber to harvest," said Paul Tauke, Iowa state forester. "There's always pressure to make money."


Some scout councils say they have reluctantly resorted to logging simply to shore up sagging operating budgets.


"I butchered the property," said Bruce Faller, a district commissioner for a Vermont scout council, describing a 2006 logging operation he ordered for financial reasons. "It was old, big beautiful wood ... I wouldn't have done it if there (were) any other way."


26 logging councils


Others unabashedly identify themselves as logging councils that manage scout camps as for-profit tree farms.


The Cascade Pacific Council in Portland, Ore., and the Andrew Jackson Council in Jackson, Miss., are among 26 councils nationwide that log camps as tree farms under what they view as sustainable management plans.


"This is pine country," said Arnold Landry, the Mississippi council executive. "We cut when it's best for us to cut. We replant and ... make the best use of the property."


Properly managed logging is simply another resource councils can tap, some say, in an era when funding is hard to find.


"People talk about what a bad, evil, horrible thing it is to cut a tree," said Tim McCandless, executive for the Spokane, Wash., Inland Northwest Council. "But our mission is kids, not trees."


In southwest Washington, along a gravel county road, a denuded hillside piled with logging debris at the Pacific Harbor Council's Camp Delezene offers testament to how, even amid today's stagnant timber markets, trees are like gold.


The scout council obtained $140,000 by clear-cutting 12 acres of 80 year-old Douglas fir, said scout volunteer Douglas Dorr. The income allowed the scouts to put a new roof on the old lodge at the camp and make other improvements. The logging was done by the book, he said.


But a conservation biologist hired by Hearst Newspapers to review the project said the scouts' logging broke state rules meant to protect endangered salmon in a nearby stream.


"There are blatant rules violations here," said the consultant, Chris Mendoza. He said the council failed to leave a buffer zone of trees along the bank of the stream and on the slopes of a hillside - measures that would have protected the stream from mudslides and erosion.


"These were some big, valuable trees," Mendoza said. "It looks like they wanted to take as many as possible and broke the rules to do it."


Council officials disagreed, saying the logging followed all regulations and was thoughtfully planned to minimize impact.


The logging at Camp Delezene was one of several cases in which scouts were criticized for allegedly deviating from environmental laws, forestry rules or rules written into logging plans.


"It pays to do that," said Mendoza, who has worked for timber corporations and also serves on a state forest practices committee. "Some landowners are more prone to bending the rules, because if they get away with it, it can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars."


Smith, the Boy Scouts national spokesman, says the scouts are not just out to make a buck at the environment's expense.


The scouts are "good stewards of their resources," he said.


Funding scout programs


Among nonprofit groups, the scouts are perhaps the nation's biggest landowners, some scout officials say. How their land is used is largely left up to administrators and volunteer board members running the 304 local scouting councils. Tapping a council's assets, such as timber, can help ensure that there's money to fund scout programs, scout officials say.


In California, scout councils often cited moneymaking as an important goal of logging projects proposed for scout wildlands. Public records show that the foresters hired by the scouts to log their properties have usually followed California forestry rules. But critics caution that forestry agencies - even in heavily regulated timber states like California - can be lax in enforcement.


Around the country, critics have complained that logging operations on scout lands weren't conducted as promised.


Logging carried out by the Central Minnesota Council at its Parker Scout Reservation north of St. Cloud in 2005-2007 earned the scouts more than $100,000, records show, but it also drew complaints. One neighbor said she thought the project would be low-impact.


"I have watched with horror the devastation being exacted on the camp," neighbor Mary Novakowski wrote to a state forester. "The equipment being used has moved through the forest crushing many small trees that might have had a chance to benefit from the open canopy."


Logging at Virginia's Pipsico Scout Reservation led to a "direct discharge" of sediment into a pond and Chesapeake Bay, degrading waters and harming fish, a consultant's report said.


On a remote hillside in the Siskiyou National Forest in southwest Oregon, the McCaleb Scout Ranch overlooks the pristine Illinois River, an unobstructed stream with wild runs of salmon and steelhead.


Salvage logging


Officially declared a state Scenic Waterway in 1970, the Illinois made the nation's list of Wild and Scenic Rivers in 1984.


Nevertheless, the Crater Lake Council conducted widespread logging at its camp after the huge Biscuit Fire in 2002. More than six years later, a massive mound of logging debris remained piled on a ravine's edge above the protected salmon stream. "They savagely logged it," Roy Keene, a former timber industry forester-turned-activist, said of the scout camp.


Council officials say that after the wildfire, they simply salvaged what revenues they could from the scorched but still valuable timber at the camp. They used the revenue - $67,000 - to rebuild camp buildings lost in the fire. But a growing number of forestry experts say such post-catastrophe logging is ecologically harmful.


The case is among at least 35 salvage harvests conducted by scouting groups nationwide since 1990, Hearst found.


"Salvage logging is almost never a positive for ecological recovery," said Jerry Franklin, professor of ecosystem analysis for the University of Washington's College of Forestry. "It is done to salvage economic values."


Recent scout-pursued salvage harvests have occurred in Georgia, California, New York, Montana and Pennsylvania after hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms and insect infestations. After fires in 1999 and 2002, the scouts' National Council conducted by far the largest of scout salvage harvests reviewed - in all, nearly 3,400 acres - at the nation's premier scouting camp, the Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico.


Some critics say the 2002 salvage at the McCaleb Ranch on Oregon's Illinois River never should have happened anyway.


"The old woman who donated that property to the scouts had entered into an agreement with the state to protect it from logging," said Keene, senior forester for the Institute of Wildlife Protection


"No trees, shrubs, or brush shall be destroyed, cut, or removed from the restricted area without a written permit from (the state)," according to the 1974 easement signed by the donor, the late Betty McCaleb.


Nevertheless, the state gave the scout council permission to cut all "fire-killed trees of merchantable size" from the 106-acre ranch just a couple weeks after the fire burned across it.


Jan Houck, a parks official who approved the plan, said such logging "isn't necessarily prohibited" under the easement, "it just needs our permission first."


Scout council executive Rick Burr, who was hired after the logging, defended the harvest as "a one-time deal."


"The money from the (timber) sale was used to rebuild the structures," he said.


To critics, it was a dispiriting transaction.


"I've got nothing against the Boy Scouts," said Joseph Vaile, an Oregon environmental activist. "But it was really disheartening to see clear-cut logging right next to a Wild and Scenic River."



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I would like to say it doesn't happen, but to do that I'd have to lie. There is clear cutting going on and it's probably in more locations than many of us realize.


A patch on a local property was clear cut for cash(less than 5% of the property), there was some outcry, it has stopped for now.


I am for sustainable management, a tree here a tree there, I believe it's better than allowing them to simply overgrow an area until their own numbers weaken them as a "community". Or until nature destructively manages it for us.

It also allows for stronger growth which can protect the trees from ice damage.

Some salvage logging is a good thing but the trick is to have an arborist in to identify those trees that may recover and not simply cover clear cutting by calling it salvage clearing.

And IF one does clear cut a strip; then there should be a marked purpose, i.e. a fire road, boundary marking to assist Scouts from straying from the property, OR there should be some immediacy towards replanting a strip that was (in fact) cut for cash.

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Yah, to my knowledge there are some camps that haven't been all that responsible. Particularly when a council was lookin' for money. As always, da few problems give everyone a black eye.


And then there's times when responsible logging just isn't liked.


Looks like the papers are goin' to run a part 2 and part 3 this weekend, includin' developers on council boards with conflicts of interest, sales of land for condos when preservation organizations were willin' to buy and the like. It'll be overhyped and unfortunate, but it also points us to a few spots that really merit attention and improvement. No organization our size is free from those who are playin' games.




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At a camporee in the Big South Fork National Recreation Area in the mid 1990's, we had members of the National Forest service discuss land management, They were quite clear that clear cutting is a GOOD way to manage a forest. The area to be clear cut must be carefully chosen. Proper clear cutting accomplishes what nature does with a fire. So for parts of large scout camps to be clear cut may represent good rather bad management. The parts of the environmental movement want no human management of the land (which is a form of management) but that does not mean that human management is bad. The Great Smoky Mountains have balds that may have been from fires or man made, their origin is unknown, are great for the wildlife as are clear cut areas.


The article is one sided and does not reflect the efforts of some councils to wisely maintain their land. Our council sold ~4 small parcels of land a few years ago that were to small for most uses, far from the council, and in at least 2 cases had no access roads. Some industry could have built a small plant on one for all we know. That does not mean that the council was derelict in its' responsibilities or in some way corrupt. Obviously, some councils may deserve the criticism but this seems more of a hatchet job.

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Was this supposed to be a news article, or is it an anti-Scouts editorial? In some places it is hard to tell. It looks to me like an editor decided that a hit piece against the Scouts was in order and they went on a nationwide hunt. What they found was that yes, Councils cut trees down, and yes, they make money from it. So what?


The business about Camp Delezene -- the biologist mentioned is associated with one of the most litigious environmental groups in the state of Washington, so his comments are no surprise. Logging in Washington is governed by regulations administered by a state agency. The landowner has to apply for a permit that is issued after the plans are reviewed. Why didn't the reporter chase down the permit and see if there were any actual violations. Why didn't the reporter talk to the state forest practices forester who would have been responsible for that particular area?


Here is a red herring: "Councils logged in or near protected wildlife habitat at least 53 times."


Sounds pretty bad doesn't it? Consider this, if you have an area to cut and part of it needs protection, that area is identified and the boundary around it is marked. Then the trees are cut up to the boundary. So, yes, you have cut "near" the protected wildlife habitat. Like when I cut my grass, I cut up to a protected area, my wife's flower bed.


There are other situations where a surplus of certain types of habitat exist and landowners are permitted to cut in these areas. That is how the rules work and that is how it should be. This article has tried to paint Scout councils in the worst possible light regarding this issue.


Gunny, with all due respect, when it comes to timber harvest in the topography of the western states, you don't know what you're talking about. You cannot cut a tree here and a tree there on much of the type of terrain we have out here and end up with a profit. You said, "a part of a local property was clearcut for cash ..." Well, yes, that is usually what happens, someone who owns the trees gets paid.



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When the colonists first pushed west over the Appalachians, they wrote that the trees were spaced so far apart they could drive their wagons between them without cutting a road. Compare that "virgin" wilderness to the overgrown clogged up mess we see today.


Etchings and paintings of New England before the Civil War show many areas cleared for farming. Today those areas are overgrown with dense forests.


What we see today is not as it has always been.


Responsible logging of Scout camps can reduce fire danger, windfall, and, God forbid, bring in some much needed cash (aka filthy lucre) to rebuild and improve the facilities. As for the camps given to the Scouts in the name of "preservation", many gifted lands, collections, and endowments are increasingly being used in ways contrary to the gifter's intent, with resulting lawsuits. However, that intent must be weighed against modern needs.


Scouting needs and legally deserves as much leeway and flexibility as anyone would allot any other charitable orgnization.


As for the Seattle article, I have to wonder how much anti-Scout bias the editor tried to filter out, or added in.






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Below is a link to the Seattle council's request for a retraction, and its reasons. If they are forthright in this, then the article is not only slanted, but simply inaccurate.





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http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/specials/scoutslogging/boyscoutsresponse.pdf (29 pages in length)


This is a link to BSA's response. I tried the one skeptic posted but it didn't work for me.


My understanding is that the Seattle PI (Post Intelligencer) is going to close its doors soon. It is one of two daily papers in Seattle, the other one being the Seattle Times. They have a long and colorful history of mutual animosity but for a number of years now, they have had a joint operating agreement entered into at a time when they were stuggling. The PI has run other anti-logging articles that were slanted and biased, mostly against the major forest landowners in the state, and against the dept. of natural resources, the agency that regulates forestry and operates about 1.7 million acres of state-owned timberland.


One of the Scout camps in the Seattle council needed to cut some large Douglas fir trees that were interspersed all over the campground. These had a root disease that is fairly common in this area. The prognosis for this disease is, it doesn't go away and eventually the trees fall over when the roots no longer anchor the tree. When our troop was there, I remarked on it to the Camp Director. He was aware of it and asked if I would write him an informal letter on it, something he could show the council. Eventually, they cut some of the trees and there was the usual outcry. I wonder what those who yelped the loudest would have had to say if the council did nothing and one of these trees (150 feet tall, 36 inches at the base) came down during summer camp?



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Why are we talking about this both here and in the Council Relations Forum?


I have no problem when Ranger staff, working with either BSA, State, USFS, or Corps of Engineers Foresters, determines logging is necessary for the health of a forest. Now, if a Scout Executive simply determines to log off a property, for the sake of the timber $$$$??? That's a completely different issue.


Scouts are Trustworthy and Thrifty, good environmental stewards: I would hope any logging is done in the best interests of forest management.

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Agreed. This was a "stalking horse". The media used this as a means to press the BSA National into responding to other questions. It worked.


I have seen the results of selective (single tree) and patch cutting at two scout camps. The selective cut was less obvious and more profitable as these were prime hardwoods. The patch cutting looked traumatic (they always do), mostly hemlock and pine, money made there. Luckily, neither camps were cutting due to pest infestation but that will come. The only beefs that I had were lack of notice and coordination with scout conservation projects. Would have been great for a Forestry mb or Soil and Water mb field trip. I think most scouts think 2x4's come from Home Depot.


Do any northern scout camps tap sugar maples? I don't know of any, but just point out another potential forest revenue stream.

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SFGATE.com front page today has an article about the scouts selling donated land. Its the second in their 'smear the scouts' series.


After that, in order to show that they are fair and balanced, I'm sure they will showcase the benefits of the BSA and show how it helps youth and exposes them to outdoor programs and leadership and.... hmmm, maybe I won't hold my breath on that one...



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