June, 2014 Vol. 6, No. 6
- A Conservation Good Turn
- The Outdoor Code
- Conservation Caravan Explorers
- BSA’s Conservation Awards
- Conservation Handbook
- Scouting’s Environmental Promise
A CONSERVATION GOOD TURN
Sixty years ago, the cover of the March, 1954, Boys’ Life magazine showed a Scout putting up a poster promoting conservation of soil, water, and wildlife. Headlines spoke of “BSA’s Conservation Good Turn” and “An Outdoor Code for Americans.”
President Eisenhower with Scouts
Boys’ Life cover, March of 1954
The Good Turn was prompted by a request from President Dwight Eisenhower, challenging the Boy Scouts to raise public awareness of the importance of caring for natural resources.
“The wise and judicious use of our natural resources is of paramount concern to all Americans,” the president wrote in a letter to Chief Scout Executive Arthur Schuck.
He went on to observe that “it would be particularly fitting if the Boy Scouts would undertake by concerted action to arouse public recognition of the need for adequate protection and wise management of our soil, mineral, forest, grassland, and wildlife resources.”
The BSA responded with a nationwide campaign to prevent forest fires and to conserve soil, water, and wildlife. Scouts distributed 3.6 million copies of the conservation poster, planted more than 6 million trees, installed 55,000 bird-nesting boxes and developed tens of thousands of displays to educate the public in the importance of stewardship.
Boys’ Life of March, 1954, showed Scouts involved with Conservation Good Turns
THE OUTDOOR CODE
Paired with the 1954 Conservation Good Turn was the BSA’s introduction of the Outdoor Code as words to live by “for all Americans.”
The code had first appeared six years earlier in the 1948 Boy Scout Handbook:
As an American, I will do my best to -
Be clean in my outdoor manners.
Be careful with fire.
Be considerate in the outdoors.
Be conservation minded.
“Developed by the Boy Scouts of America, and promoted by all of us – by you and me,” it was highlighted again in the same 1954 Boys’ Life issue as President Eisenhower’s letter:
Outdoor Code in Boys’ Life Magazine – March 1954
Those were years of the Cold War with the Soviet Union when there was great concern about security of the nation. That might account for the Outdoor Code’s wording “As an American…” If it were written today, the pledge to care for the environment could be expanded to include the people of every nation.
CONSERVATION CARAVAN EXPLORERS
In 1955, a dozen Explorer Scouts set off for Washington, DC, report to President Eisenhower on the success of the previous year’s BSA Conservation Good Turn. They made the journey aboard an Air Force Convair, the official plane of the commanding general of the Joint Western Air Defense Force.
Conservation Caravan Explorers Board Their Flight in Colorado Springs, Colorado
The plane touched down at sites along a 3,500 mile route so the Explorers could tour parks, farms, a mining operation, and other locations where conservation efforts were in effect.
“We saw how conservation was paying off for land and wildlife, and also how our conservation was paying off for us,” said the Explorers, chosen for their own contributions to conservation.
“It was,” they added, “a unique combination of two bests – getting to see the best government conservation projects first-hand, and enjoying the best hospitality of the West.” And all of that was before arriving at the White House to chat with the president.
BSA’S CONSERVATION AWARDS
Those dozen Explorers who went to Washington, DC, in 1955 were being rewarded for their efforts on behalf of the environment. Scouting has encouraged conservation and stewardship with a variety of programs and awards. Here’s a look at some of the most prominent:
Conservation Good Turn
- TRAIL Boss
Leave No Trace
(Save Our American Resources)
World Conservation Award
Philmont Wilderness Pledge
There have also been a host of merit badges promoting conservation themes or skills that could be used to further stewardship and caring for the land:
Conservation Merit Badge
The Conservation merit badge itself dates back to the beginnings of the BSA as one of the original 57 merit badges.
Conservation Merit Badge
Scouts were asked to recognize and document trees, game birds and animals in their neighborhoods, understand how farmlands and forests are used, the effects of stream flow, and know about reducing the waste of coal, both in the mines and in its use.
By 1937, requirements had evolved to “Present evidence of having directly assisted conservation by some deed, such as fighting a forest fire; checking erosion; planting trees; helping restock streams with fish; posting or distributing conservation notices; planting wild rice or other duck feed; feeding birds in winter; stopping stream and river pollution.”
1948 Boy Scout Handbook
Gradually the requirements for the Conservation merit badge spread to other awards, and in 1952 the badge was discontinued.
William T. Hornaday Awards
the granddaddy of BSA conservation honors is named after William T. Hornaday. The director of the Bronx Zoo and credited with saving the American bison from extinction, Dr. Hornaday infused early Scouting with values of stewardship and environmental responsibility. You can learn about these and other current conservation awards at www.scouting.org.
William T. Hornaday Awards
Another anniversary fast approaching is the quarter century that the Conservation Handbook has been on the shelves of BSA literature. It’s still a terrific guide for carrying out meaningful projects to protect the environment and a fine manual for helping Scout units and the managers of public and private lands develop ongoing environmental partnerships.
SCOUTING’S ENVIRONMENTAL PROMISE
The official website of the BSA has this to say about the emphasis the organization puts on conservation:
Since 1910, conservation has been an integral part of the program of the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA has been a positive force in conservation and environmental efforts. Scouts have rendered distinguished public service by helping to conserve wildlife, energy, forests, soil, and water. Past generations of Scouts have been widely recognized for undertaking conservation Good Turn action projects in their local communities.
With the 60th anniversary of the Outdoor Code as a reminder, Scouts everywhere can recommit to rolling up their sleeves and giving back to places where they camp and hike. They can do environmental good turns around their homes, communities, and everywhere on planet Earth.
Order copies of the Conservation Handbook at www.scoutstuff.org. For more on the role of stewardship, check out the official website of the BSA – www.scouting.org.
(This edition of the Be Prepared Newsletter was developed and written by Robert Birkby, author of the current editions of the Boy Scout Handbook, Fieldbook, Scout Stuff, The Conservation Handbook, and Eagle Scouts: A Centennial History.)