As the story goes, Chicago publisher William D. Boyce was lost in a dense London fog when a young boy offered to help him find his way. After reaching his destination, Boyce offered the boy a tip, but the boy refused the money, saying that he was just doing a “Good Turn” as a Scout.
Impressed by the boy and his fine manners, Boyce sought a meeting with the British founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert Baden-Powell. The next year (1910), Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America. Nearly 100 years later, the organization now has nearly 3 million youth members in its Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting and Venturing programs.
Conservation has always been a foundation of the Boy Scouting program. In addition to their wellknown motto of “Be Prepared,” Boy Scouts have an outdoor code that says, “As an American, I will do my best to be clean in my outdoor manners, be careful with fire, be considerate in the outdoors, and be conservation minded.”
From the very first edition, published in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America handbook has emphasized woodcraft. As part of their development, Boy Scouts learn about nature, develop outdoor skills and gain an appreciation for our natural resources. The program uses hiking, camping and canoeing among its many character-building activities.
Of the 121 different merit badges that Boy Scouts can earn, many have strong conservation connections. These include Environmental Science, Fish and Wildlife Management, Forestry, Soil and Water Conservation, Insect Study, Bird Study and Reptile and Amphibian Study, as well as Hiking, Camping, Shotgun Shooting and Fishing.
The Department of Conservation’s The Next Generation of Conservation strategic plan has a goal of supporting community conservation efforts and organizations such as the Boy Scouts.
An important aspect of the Scouting program is giving something back to the local community in the form of community service hours. These service projects often involve conservation.
For example, 78 Boy Scouts of America groups have enrolled as Missouri Stream Teams. Their activities include stream litter pick-ups, water quality monitoring and streamside tree planting.
Scouts or Scout troops are involved in many other conservation projects, including tree planting, fish and wildlife habitat improvement, bird house or bird feeder construction and placement, prairie restoration projects and nature trail construction and maintenance.
All Scouts are required to complete community service hours to advance in rank, but a special community service project is required of a Boy Scout to earn the coveted Eagle Scout rank.
Many young men working toward becoming Eagle Scouts choose conservation projects. One Eagle Scout candidate recently completed a wood sample display that identifies various tree species. His project is used as a teaching aid to show people the differences in color, grain and bark in various wood samples.
Another Scout’s project involved the construction of display boards showing various fishing lures and baits and fishing knots. The displays are used by Conservation Department staff and volunteers when they provide fishing presentations to the public.
Other Eagle Scout candidates have built and placed mourning dove nesting structures on several Northwest Missouri conservation areas. After Eagle Scout Casey Johnson of Troop 60 in Savannah completed his mourning dove nesting project, he said he was happy he had chosen to work on behalf of conservation.
“To a young man in the state of Missouri nothing can be better than the Boy Scouts of America and Missouri Department of Conservation,” Johnson said. “BSA gives the young man a chance to learn about life and leadership, and MDC supplies a nice clean setting for these activities.”
We can also thank Eagle Scout candidates for fish habitat structures in several Northwest Missouri conservation area lakes, aesthetically pleasing wooden slab benches at the entrance of the Conservation Department’s Northwest Regional Office, and for the shade structures at the Kid’s Fishing Pond at Lost Valley Fish Hatchery near Warsaw.
Wildlife Management Biologist Sean Cleary testifies to the value of the partnership of the Conservation Department and the Boy Scouts of America.
“Local Boy Scout troops have been a good source of volunteer help on state conservation lands,” Cleary said. “From trail enhancement projects to creating wildlife habitat, their work benefits the Conservation Department and Missouri citizens.”
Other winners in the partnership are the individual Scouts. They get fully involved in their projects and coordinate their work with Conservation Department experts. As they complete their projects, they learn how conservation works on the ground, and they gain a sense of ownership of our natural resources.
The slogan of the Boy Scouts of America is “Do a Good Turn Daily.” And, just like the anonymous Boy Scout in the London fog, Scouts have been doing Good Turns for conservation for nearly 100 years.
The Boy Scouts of America has three programs open to youths. They include Cub Scouts, which is designed for boys 7 to 10 years old. Boy Scouts, open to boys 10 to 17 years old, and Venturing, open to boys and girls between 14 and 20 years old who have completed eighth-grade.
All programs provide experiences, challenges and guidance designed to help young people mature into responsible and caring adults.
To become a Scout or to learn more about Boy Scouts of America programs, contact one of the following Boy Scouts Councils in Missouri:
See the links listed below for other organizations actively involved in youth conservation education and/or conservation service projects.
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