Friday, October 18, 2013

Scout leaders could (will) face vandalism charges

Hoodoos in Utah's Goblin Valley State Park.
They don't need our help to erode.
©Eric Larson
Salt Lake Tribune, October 17, 2013 - Two men destroyed a formation at Goblin Valley State Park, in their capacity as YM/Scout leaders. They could face up to felony charges for destroying public property and protected resources. This incident could serve as a jumping-off point for a good Leave No Trace discussion when planning outdoor activities with your Scouts. It also underscores the need for continuity and consistency in expectations and leadership in Scouting (for youth and adults) as they age from group to group. For example, older Youth can teach younger, less experienced Youth the skills they've learned, to reinforce correct principles (i.e., 'to do my duty country/Obeying, Honoring, and Sustaining the Law), as they move from Troop to Team to Crew. In a way, it reminds me of a 1976 Conference talk by then-Elder Kimball:
"We hope we can help our young men and young women to realize, even sooner than they do now, that they need to make certain decisions [in this context, adhere to the Outdoor Code] only once. I have mentioned at this pulpit before some determinations made early in my life, which decisions were such a help to me because I did not have to remake those decisions perpetually. We can push some things away from us once and have done with them! We can make a single decision about certain things that we will incorporate in our lives and then make them ours—without having to brood and redecide a hundred times what it is we will do and what we will not do.

"Indecision and discouragement are climates in which the Adversary lives to function, for he can inflict so many casualties among mankind in those settings. My young brothers, if you have not done so yet, decide to decide!" (Spencer W. Kimball, Boys need Heroes Close By, Ensign, May 1976)*
It also reminds me of this essay on Hugh Nibley's environmental perspective (see principle #4). To read the local paper, you'd think that Scout Leaders in my area seem too often to be violating the ideals they're supposed to be teaching and instilling in their charges. Way to lead by example, guys. I'd like to ask them, "brethren, what part of Leave No Trace does this fall under? I wonder, how much of that behavior and rationalization can be attributed to a general lack of training because the Leaders don't want to be held to/hassled by the standards? And how much to just plain old, "hey, y'all, watch this!" (after-the-fact rationale notwithstanding)? Every time someone does something stupid, the Tribune, et. al. will make sure everyone knows about it. By small and simple things (done by a few)...are we given a collective black eye.

UPDATE, 10:20AM: It's on CNN.
"...and I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for those meddling internetses."

UPDATE, 2:00PM: Utah National Parks Council responds to this incident.
"We are shocked and disappointed by this reprehensible behavior...and will take appropriate action." They could refuse to recharter the Troop in question unless a personnel change is made, among other things.

UPDATE, 10/20: In an even-worse-than-the-infraction kind of twist, it is reported that the goblin-tippers are receiving death threats. C'mon, people, a little more Scout Spirit in dealing with the wrong-thing-right-reason poor decisions of others.  Also, glue guns at the ready, local Relief Societies are repairing the damage, and shoring up other potentially dangerous hoodoos.

UPDATE, 10/21: I posted the following to a photography group on Google+:
I just want to say, and I probably won't say it very well, that these individuals are in no way representative of what Scouting - they were Scout leaders on a Scout activity when they were so "helpful" - represents.  They caused damage to more than one irreplaceable hooodoo, they demonstrated to their Scouts that such behavior is acceptable, if the fun factor dictates it, and you can come up with a plausible rationale.  In just a few minutes, they undermined all of the ethics they were supposedly teaching their young charges.

I'm also [an Assistant] Scoutmaster (I use my Scouting as an excuse to get out my Pentax), and I go to great lengths to teach my boys that such is not the case: to leave the squirrels and rattlesnakes alone, not to mention millions-years-old formations; to "take only photographs, leave only footprints".  It is my sincere hope that whatever happens to these men, whatever charges leveled and punishments meted out, that the lessons of the consequences are not lost on the boys they were 'leading.'
UPDATE: Appropriate action taken: "After reviewing this matter with the local chartered organization, these men have been removed from their leadership positions and are no longer members of the BSA (see the UNPC link above for details)."

*Surprise! It wasn't "Don't Kill the Little Birds," but it could just as easily have been. 

It was my Deacons' Quorum Advisor/Scoutmaster, US Army Maj. Jimmy Jones, who taught me about Pres. Kimball's talk, given the very month I was born. Maj Jones also administered my Oath of Office when I received my commission as a new Second Lieutenant in the USAF. Goes to show how our leaders have a lasting, incalculable effect on us, for good or ill; we lead by example, whether we realize it or not.

Prepared. | For Life.™

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