Our public lands are under siege, on the imminent verge of destruction by that most horrible of horrible organizations… the Boy Scouts. Well, that’s being overly dramatic, but in all seriousness, the Boy Scouts is an organization with one of the worst outdoor ethics I’ve ever seen.
This past summer I got a chance to work for Inyo National Forest, in the forest’s wilderness division. Part of my job, as well as that of my co-workers, involved patrolling trails in the forest and making sure people were doing what they were supposed to.
The biggest problem with the Scouts was that they tried any way possible to do what they wanted to do. For example, bears are a big problem in many places in the Sierra Nevada, but not everywhere. In bad areas you can no longer hang your food from a tree because the bears have figured out how to get it down. You consequently have to store your food in a bear-resistant container. Bears, however, don’t always stay in the same area, and that’s why it’s a good idea to just always use a bear-resistant container.
The Scouts are usually the people who just simply don’t get this point. If bear-resistant containers were not required, scouts would rarely ever take one, even if the group was large. Their excuse was that they’ve been doing it for years and have never seen a bear, and that the containers were too heavy. Oh, poor babies…
Scouts also have a campfire fetish.
They always have to have a campfire, and will find technicalities that allow them to have one. One group of Scouts I ran into had an altimeter and said they were no less than 10 feet in elevation below an elevational fire restriction, and asked if they could have a campfire. Scouts were consistently noisy, litterbugs and also indulged in their other fetish of building things (like latrines). They forget that a trip is about the adventure, not the goal.
A group of Scouts was day hiking Mt. Whitney. For those who don’t know, Mt. Whitney is the highest summit in the lower 48 states at 14,496 feet. The trail to the top starts at 8,300 feet and is 10.7 miles long one way. A group of Scouts was caught near the summit without proper clothing, with no gear to stay the night and with some severe cases of altitude sickness, and get this – the leaders wanted to keep going!
Finally, we can thank the Scouts for the years of backbreaking backpacks gained from their motto, “Be Prepared.” The Scouts are a virtual religious organization, brainwashing our youths to their poor outdated (by almost a century) outdoor ethics. If my kids ask me if they can join the Scouts, they’ll get a very loud “No!”
Andrew West is a senior environmental studies major and hopes that one day the Boy Scouts get woken up by a bear eating their food in the midst of a forest fire that their illegal campfire started.