Damascus, Arkansas – When one thinks of youth serving organizations and the outdoors, a number of names come up. 4H, Youth Conservation Corps, YMCA, and the list goes on. But one organization stands out from the rest. With over 110 million registered members since its inception in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has provided a wonderful opportunity for our Nation’s young men to experience the outdoors, and teach stewardship and life skills through practical application and programs.
“The Boy Scouts of America is trying to keep in front today’s youth by offering more exciting and challenging programs. With [these] new innovated programs come mechanized equipment and the negative impacts it may have on our recreational areas,” said leader Thomas Willis from the Baltimore area.
With that in mind, the BSA long ago adopted what is known as the Outdoor Code; A set of guidelines designed to help minimize the impact left by the millions of boys and leaders heading out into the back country to experience traditional activities such as hiking, camping, shooting, and any number of other activities that lead to successful completion of one of the more than 100 merit badges available. This initial Outdoor Code was supplemented by an agreement with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, including dedicated portions of the Scout Handbook and awards for adopting and teaching minimal impact practices.
So where does Tread Lightly! fit in? As mentioned, the Scouts have long provided merit badge and summer camp activities revolving around shooting sports, and with recent expansions into motorized travel (specifically ATV and personal watercraft), a set of ethics that catered to these sportsmen and motorized communities was needed. Starting in 2010, Tread Lightly! signed an agreement with the BSA and began laying groundwork. That work came to fruition in October with the first BSA Outdoor Ethics Conference, held at the Donald W. Reynolds Center in northern Arkansas. A meeting of the minds of outdoor ethics, if you will. Hundreds of adult attendees from around the country were met by representatives from Tread Lightly!, Leave No Trace, agencies, and conservation groups.
We were invited to host a Tread Trainer course for attendees the day before the conference began, and with an overwhelming response, quickly enlisted the help of BSA leaders who had previously undertaken the Master Tread Trainer course. With nearly 65 participants, most of whom were LNT Master Educators, the day was truly tailored to address the challenges and important points of motorized use and shooting sports. With breakout sessions utilized to facilitate activities aimed at communicating legal and responsible motorized use, the day was packed with quality discussion and questions aimed to help leaders work within their troops and units.
A common feeling among course participants, leader Rob Pinkston said, “I look forward in utilizing the training knowledge I obtained during the course in future TL Training opportunities within my local Tukabatchee Area Council Scouting Adventure here in central Alabama.”
The next day, a short course looking directly at some of the ethics guidelines surrounding shooting and motorized use was held. Since ATV and PWC are the new hot items within the BSA programming, the class took the time to look at some big-picture and easily-communicated items that could be integrated into their existing youth activities.
The big news wrapping up the session was the announcement of Tread Lightly! trainer courses (Tread Trainer) being allowed to satisfy requirements for the Outdoor Ethics badge that can be earned by youth and adults alike. This badge has various requirements including trainer status, leadership, and items centered around the promotion of responsible use within the BSA. We could not be happier with this inclusion and look forward to more opportunities working with our millions of friends in Scouting. See you all at Jamboree!
By: Justin Lilly, Master Tread Trainer