Wednesday, 17 December 2014

"You Make the Call" Follow-Up

In first "You Make the Call" post I made our goals that I needed to work towards completing. As a reminder the goals are as follows:

Goal 1: I will make a sincere effort to say 5 positive things that happened each day. These 5 positive things will be logged on my computer and then posted to this blog on a weekly basis. I will do this every week for 12 weeks.

Goal 2: I will say at least 1 positive thing to 3 different people each and everyday. If I am not going to leave the house on one day I will write a short message or email to a friend or family member each and every day for 12 weeks.

Goal 3: I will not allow myself to see more than 3 days each week as a complete failure or hopeless endeavor.

Goal 4: I will hold myself accountable to the two daily and 1 weekly  goal by regularly updating the readers of this blog on a regular basis.

So I was supposed to start these four goals on Monday December 1 and then provide regular updates. Obviously based on the lack of posts I have not followed through. Unfortunately, I have come to the realization these 4 goals are currently un-achievable as I lack the motivation to follow through. Therefore I am stopping this challenge and will continue with my old posts to ensure regular posting.

Yours in Scouting
Mark West
Eagle Scout
Assistant District Commissioner
Critical Need Unit Team
Assistant Cubmaster Pack 0125

Monday, 8 December 2014

Things Every New District Executive Needs to Know But Won't Be Told Part 2

Here is the next five of 50 things that every new District Executive needs to know but their Local Council Executive Staff won't tell them. This is list is based off of personal experience and in no way represents what a the BSA at either the National or Local Level would be willing to share. Additionally, each and every person is highly encouraged to add to this list. Please include your name and unit number, otherwise the comment will not be complied and posted at a later date. If you have comments that you do not want to share far and wide comments can be emailed to westybsa@gmail.com. And now for the list:

Item 6: Know when and how to say "NO". Saying "NO" is for most people very difficult to do. However as a District Executive (DE) not knowing this will only cause mistrust and hurt. If you are going to say "NO" make sure your willing to stand by your decision. Do NOT give in as if you give in you are only setting yourself up for trouble. Being known as the DE that always steps up and saves the day at the last minute is one of the most counterproductive actions you can take.

Item 7: If something can be sent to a leader or parent in an email, send the email before trying to contact the person on the phone. The only exception to this is if you know that leader or volunteer won't read or respond to the email in a timely manner. Email must become your friend. Check it often and check it regularly is key. Always, when providing information cite or refer to your sources in each and every email.

Item 8: Accept that Murphy was a Scouter and that in Scouting Murphy's Law always is present. Even the most prepared person learns to accept that Murphy's Law is what Scouting is all about. In case you didn't know Murphy's Law here it is:

"Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong."

This is not to say that your allowed to be a pesemist but it does at least help you be mentally prepared for changes. Planning is extremely important, however being able to change plans quickly is a must have trait to be successful as a DE.

Item 9: Continuing more with the Murphy's Law theme, there is another great saying to remember which is:

"If X is the number of items needed your number of items available
will always be 1 less than what is needed."

To put this as an equation:

"X-1=Y"
"Where X is the number needed and
Y is the number you have."

More than anything Murphy's Law is just something that will get you through the event or meeting. It is just a dose of humor to keep things in perspective. Because keeping things in perspective will help you keep your sanity.

Item 10: Lastly to say something about the weather. If you don't like bad weather, then being a DE might not be for you because Scouting must just go on. In Scouting weather doesn't stop us and the sooner your realize this the better off you will be. FYI............."Bad Weather"...............May refer to sleet, rain, snow, hail, lightning, thunder, ice storms, wind, or any combination of the above weather conditions. I personally think that the Swedes got it right when they said:

Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder.

To translate the saying:

"There's no such thing as bad weather, only wrong clothes."

-or-

"Any weather is tolerable as long as you have the right clothing."

Well that is it for now. Coming up by the end  of the week I will have posted the next 5 items. Hope you enjoyed this and as always feel free to comment or share ideas on this topic or any other topic you would like to see covered.


Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
Assistant District Commissioner
Critical Need Unit Team
Assistant Cubmaster Pack 0125


If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a Professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, you are called a Scouter.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Things Every New District Executive Needs to Know But Won't Be Told Part 1

Here is the first five of 50 things that every new District Executive needs to know but their Local Council Executive Staff won't tell them. This is list is based off of personal experience and in no way represents what a the BSA at either the National or Local Level would be willing to share. Additionally, each and every person is highly encouraged to add to this list. Please include your name and unit number, otherwise the comment will not be complied and posted at a later date. If you have comments that you do not want to share far and wide comments can be emailed to westybsa@gmail.com. And now for the list:

Item 1: This is NOT a 9 am to 5 pm job. On a regular basis you will be expected to attend functions on evenings and weekends on a regular basis.

Item 2: Significant time will be spent traveling around the area covered by your District. The size of your District can range from very small to extremely large. To give you an example on District Executive covers the entirety of Southeast Alaska or it could be as small as a single city/community. Other points to mention about travel:

  • Having an SUV or at the very least an AWD vehicle would be of great benefit.
  • Travel may include dirt roads on a regular basis (Varies by Council).
  • Knowing the locations of various churches is very helpful.
  • Having a knowledge of your local school district and locations of schools will allow you to better serve your district.
  • Your vehicle on a frequent basis will serve as your office.
Overall be comfortable with regular travel in all sorts of conditions will reduce travel difficulties.


Item 3: If you want to get things done without interruption either work from home (if allowed) or after regular business hours. Do NOT expect that your office at the Council Service Center (Council Office) will allow you to get things done.

Item 4: Having a significant other or spouse that understands and accepts complicated work environments is essential to maintaining a strong and successfulf relationship. Same idea applies to your kids (of course you aren't able to be as flexible but you get the idea). Things to consider include:

  • Odd Hours
  • Frequent Evening and Weekend Commitments
  • Acceptance of Spouse/Significant Other
  • Age and Needs of Your Children
  • Times of Year that Make You Have No Other Life

Item 5: Keep your kids and spouse/significant other as a priority in your life. Know when to say no to projects/functions and be willing to stand firm on your choices. Don't let other colleagues or volunteers guilt you into committing to projects/functions that are NOT essential to your job.



Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
Assistant District Commissioner
Critical Need Unit Team
Assistant Cubmaster Pack 0125


If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a Professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, you are called a Scouter.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Boy Scout Recruiting A to Z Part 1

Letter A: Always Follow Up
After every meeting where a new Scout or parent visits your unit it essential to have a follow-up conversation via phone or e-mail. It is essential because it gives the Scout/parent time to digest the information given and ask questions. Additionally remind the Scout/parent of about the next meeting and the next activity for the unit.

Letter B: Boy to Boy Recruiting is Essential
There are many ways to recruit new Scouts. However, the single most effective method is boy to boy recruiting. Boy to boy recruiting is where an already established member encourages his friend to come and see what Scouting is all about.

Letter C: Communicate Effectively
Communicating regularly and effectively with both Scouts and parents is what makes a unit succeed or fail. Communication, with new members is extremely important because it makes the new member feel welcome and a part of your unit.

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."
~George Bernard Shaw

Letter D: Demonstrate Scout Spirit
Scout Spirit according to the Boy Scouts of America is defined as:

"Scout Spirit applies to how a Scout lives and conducts his daily life. He shows Scout Spirit by being a role model to his peers, living by the Scout Oath and Law. The concept of Scout Spirit is not based on how many Scouting events or outings a Scout attends, but rather by how he helps bring out the best in others as a reflection of his own character and attitude in his daily life."

As a Scouter or Scout we must come to embody and adhere to demonstrate Scout Spirit in all we do. We must not only demonstrate Scout Spirit on Scout events or outings, we must demonstrate it in our daily lives as well. Adopting Scout Spirit as your own is essential to recruiting Scouts because it shows that you are dedicated, interested in, and committed to Scouting.

Letter E: Every Night is a Recruitment Night
While have organized recruitment nights is important, it is also important to realize that a new Scout or Scouter may show up at any meeting. Therefore, always have your New Member Orientation Packet and multiple Adult and Youth Applications available at every meeting. Having these materials at your meeting will allow you to not be caught off guard if a potential member comes to a meeting.

Along with be prepared to accept a new member, it is important to remember to design a program that is exciting, fun, engaging, and meaningful at every meeting and every event. Because you just never know when a potential member may come to check out your unit.

Letter F: Fun is Essential
Personally, I don't understand how unit after unit I visit is content with having a program entirely focused and condensed down to just another part of "school". Scouting is NOT school, it is a place to have fun, learn new skills, engage in age appropriate activities that engage the boys and make them want to fully participate in the activity planned.

I call the Scouting that so many seem to practice "bookwork Scouting" which is defined as a sit down activity writing or producing a written product that resembles schoolwork. I will admit that Scouting does have some "bookwork" that must be done to achieve Rank or earn a badge. But even then there are methods of instruction that can make boring of subjects engaging and interesting to your boys.

To put it in the words of Lord Robert Baden-Powell:

"We are not a club or Sunday School class, but a school of the woods."

Letter G: Get Parents Involved
One way to prevent disengaged new parents is to engage these parents immediately by giving them simple or easily taught duties that make a significant contribution to your unit. This however does NOT mean that you should put that new parent into a direct-contact leadership role upon joining. The only exception to this would be if a parent asks to take on a leadership role within the unit.

Letter H: Have Exceptional Leadership
By having exceptional leadership your unit will not only exist but will prosper. It will prosper because you have created a meaningful program and a spectacular experience. Units fail to have exceptional leadership by:

Having leaders who take on a position just because
no one else will step up.

Having leaders who care more about recognition
than serving the boys.

Having leaders who create unnecessary drama.

Having leaders who don't really care for the boys.

Units also fail to have exceptional leadership when leaders don't know the difference between a "boss" and a "leader. And yes there is a difference.

Letter I: Immediate Immersion
New members are usually extremely excited to start their Scouting experience therefore you must providing "true Scouting" at each and every meeting, outing or activity. Our founder Robert Baden-Powell put this idea of immediate immersion best when he said:

"A boy on joining wants to begin Scouting right away."

Getting the boy immersed in Scouting is only half of immediate immersion concept. The other half is getting the parent immersed in Scouting. Parents being immersed in Scouting immediately will be MORE likely to get involved and contribute meaningfully to the unit.

Letter J: Join Night Plan
Too often have I seen Join Nights fail because leaders are unprepared. Remember the first impression of Scouting is the ONLY chance you have to convince the boy and the parent to join Scouting. Join Night plans must consider:
  • Regular Meeting Time/Day/Location
  • Costs of Scouting (Must be unit specific)
  • Join Night Time/Day/Location
  • Basics of Scouting
  • How to Keep Youth Busy
  • Unit Leadership
  • Council Support
This is in no way a complete list but it should hopefully give you an idea of what to include in your Join Night plan.


Letter K: Know Your Boys
Knowing your boys as individuals shows that you are truly a leader that cares and is interested in each and every boy. We leaders generally know all our Scouts at a superficial level but to be true servant leaders we must learn way more than this if we are to create strong units. To put it in the words of our founder:

"Scoutmasters deal with the individual boy rather
than with the mass."

The word Scoutmaster can be replaced with Cubmaster or any other unit leader title.

Letter L: Leave a Good Impression
I don't think that I could it better than Mr. Rogers:

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

So as Scouters we know that we must leave a good impression but what specifically does this have to do with recruiting? Well everything of course! Everything because the impression of Scouting and your unit is the deciding factor in determining whether or not Scouting will be a worthwhile activity.

The Scoutmaster Minute Blog Response to "You Make the Call"

Jerry Schleining over at the blog "The Scoutmaster Minute" on November 29 published the post "You Make the Call". Below you will find an excerpt from the post that in my opinion pretty much sums up the topic discussed within the post:

"So you make the call? Have you made a choice to do something with your life?
Have you broken it down to smaller parts to manage your goals better?
Have you given up? Do you have a positive outlook?
And you want Results or keep making excuses?
It is simple, but it starts with you and a choice."

"You make the call."

This post discusses outlook on life and personal accountability, which I struggle with on a daily basis. The reasons why I struggle really aren't important but what is important here is my reaction to this post. My initial reaction was to comment and tell the author how he is wrong and that the situation was more complex than he made it seem. It to me was an attack on who I was as a person and my values. However, before I posted a comment about how the author was wrong, the rational voice in my head took over and told me............."Mark you need to calm down and reread the post before you post something you regret".

Luckily I listened and reread the post. After doing so I realized that even though it felt like a "punch in face" it was something that I needed to hear and to take some time to reflect. After reflecting I decided that this was a time in my life where you need to not take it personally and accept that I am the person that needs to change. This situation reminds of an quote about the truth that I strongly believe in:

"Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they
don't want their illusions destroyed."
~Friedrich Nietzsche

In response to this illusion I hold, I hereby declare:

  1. I will make a sincere effort to say 5 positive things that happened each day. These 5 positive things will be logged on my computer and then posted to this blog on a weekly basis. I will do this every week for 12 weeks.
  2. I will say at least 1 positive thing to 3 different people each and everyday. If I am not going to leave the house on one day I will write a short message or email to a friend or family member each and every day for 12 weeks.
  3. I will not allow myself to see more than 3 days each week as a complete failure or hopeless endeavor.
  4. I will hold myself accountable to the two daily and 1 weekly goal by regularly updating the readers of this blog on a regular basis.
I also hereby challenge anyone who has trouble with keeping a positive outlook on life to join me in this challenge. If you choose to accept this challenge I encourage you to log your experience on either a blog you contribute to or on a social networking site you regular interact with such as Facebook or Twitter. Posting this on a blog or social networking site is to help ensure you follow through with this challenge. Furthermore, anyone participating in this challenge should at your discretion inform me of your acceptance of this challenge.

Thank you to all who are regular readers of this blog. I hope through this challenge and several other changes in purpose/programming that I will make an effort to provide regular content updates. As always thank you for your participation or service to Scouting, as without all you members Scouting would not be possible.


Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout 
Assistant District Commissioner
Critical Need Unit Team 
Assistant Cubmaster Pack 0125


If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a Professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, you are called a Scouter.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Recharter

Before we begin the primary topic of this column I would first like to introduce myself. My name is Mark West, I am 23 years old and have been involved with Scouting since the second grade (1997). In August 2006 I earned my Eagle with Troop 780 which is located in Castle Rock, Colorado (Denver Area Council). During April 2007 I moved to Soldotna and became involved with Troop 1616. Troop 1616 is now known as Troop 669, due to a change in the charter organization. The first unit I served with in Anchorage was Troop 1316 where I served as an Assistant Scoutmaster until Fall 2012. After a brief absence from serving as an unit leader I joined Pack 125 in the fall of 2013 and have been involved with the Pack ever since.

Currently beyond being involved with a unit I currently serve in:
  • Eklutna District Unit Commissioner
  • Eklutna District Committee Member
  • Council Training Committee, Vice Chair of Youth Leader Training
Beyond these three positions I volunteer in Scout Office where I serve as a Council Support Services volunteer. In this role I provide administrative and technical support to the council through several different projects. One of my major ongoing projects I am working on is writing a column in the E-Trail Talk newsletter of the the council. My goal with this column is to provide volunteers with the tools and resources necessary to provide program support to make your Scouting experience as fulfilling as possible.

While the topic of recharter is not the most interesting topic, it is still a necessary process that all units have to go through on an annual basis. To help you understand why recharter is so important let's take a brief look into what the Charter Organization is and its relationship with the council and its members. Starting off lets define what a Charter Organization is

"A Charter Organization is a civic, faith-based, or educational organization that sponsors (operates) a Scouting unit to deliver the programs of the Boy Scouts of America to their youth members, as well as the community at large."

Each Charter Organization must have both an Institution Head and a Charter Organization Representative. However these two positions may be the same person. Institution Head is defined as follows:

"An Institution Head is the top person of the charter organization which has ultimate decision making authority when it comes business decisions. This person usually is the Chief Executive Officer, the President, a Pastor, a Priest, a Bishop, or director of the sponsoring organization."

A Charter Organization Representative (COR) is defined as follows:

"A Charter Organization Representative is the person appointed by the Institution Head to have the authority to appoint new leaders, remove old leaders, approve adult and youth membership, ensure that the unit is conducting the Scouting program within the parameters established by the Boys Scouts of America, ensure that the unit conducts itself in line with purpose of the organization, and to help acquire or provide the resources needed for the unit to conduct its program."

Each year the Institution Head signs what is called an "Annual Charter Agreement" which is the agreement that defines what the Charter Organization is to provide and the responsibilities of the Local Council to each Charter Organization. The full "Annual Charter Agreement" can be found here.

 Below you will find a summary of the responsibilities of the two involved parties in the "Annual Charter Agreement" starting with the responsibilities of the Charter Organization:
  • Conduct the Scouting Program inline with the policies of the BSA.
  • Include Scouting as part of the programs for families and youth of the organization.
  • Appoint a COR to coordinate unit operations and serve as an active voting member of the Local Council.
  •  Select a committee of no less than 3 people that will screen and select potential leaders that meet both the standards of membership for the Charter Organization and the BSA.
  • Provide Adequate facilities for the Scouting Units to meet.
  • Encourage participation in the Outdoor Programs of the BSA.
While the Charter Organization has the above duties, the Local Council agrees to carry out the following responsibilities to each and every Charter Organizations:
  • Respect the aims and objectives of the organizations and to offer the resources of Scouting to the Charter Organization
  • Make available year round training opportunities, programs, and service resources to the Charter Organization.
  • Provide information on how to select quality leaders.
  • Provide Primary General Liability Insurance for the unit and its Charter Organization.
  • Provide Excess General Liability Insurance for unregistered leaders involved with the unit.
  • Provide facilities for camping.
One of the most important things you can do to bring change to both the district and the local council is to encourage your COR to attend District Committee Meetings and Council Board Meetings. District Committee Meetings are generally held on a monthly basis from August to May, skipping June and July. Council Board Meetings are also held on a monthly basis but if there is any meeting that is more important than these monthly meetings it would be the Council Annual Business Meeting. This meeting is held during the month of February in conjunction with the Great Alaska Council's Day of Scouting. This day usually includes:
  • District Committee Chair Meeting
  • Council Annual Business Meeting
  • Council Executive Board Annual Meeting
  • Eagle Recognition Banquet
  • Annual Council Awards Banquet
Hopefully by now you will have gained a better understanding of the Charter Organization Concept and the role the Charter Organization Representative plays within the unit, district, and local council. However, I still have not covered what the purpose of recharter is and therefore it needs to still be addressed. The purpose of recharter is as follows:
  • Update personal and contact information of youth and adult members.
  • Remove adults and youth from the unit roster, if necessary.
  • Add adults and youth to the unit roster, if necessary.
  • Make leadership position changes to already registered leaders without an Adult Application.
  • Pay registration fees and for Boys Life subscriptions for the upcoming year. (This only applies to Non-LDS (Latter Day Saints) Units, unless a LDS Unit has a member that is interested in subscribing to Boys Life Magazines). 
  • Grant your Charter Organization the Charter that allows your Charter Organization to conduct the programs of the Boy Scouts of America. 
If this doesn't provide enough background on the Charter Organization Concept and the purpose of the recharter process please feel free to contact me via email at westybsa@gmail.com with any additional questions or concerns. You can also contact your District Executive with any questions you have about recharter. Additionally, I am always interested in hearing comments, concerns, or questions about the current topic or suggestions for future topics you would like to be covered.

Thank you for participating in Scouting, it is you as adult leaders and youth members that make the Scouting program work. Your service to Scouting is greatly appreciated.



Yours In Scouting
Mark West
Eklutna District
Unit Commissioner
Great Alaska Council


If you are paid to do Scouting you are called a Professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting you are called a Volunteer. But if you pay to do Scouter you are called a Scouter.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

I Put On the Uniform...............

“Why do I put on the uniform everyday?” Seems to be a question I get asked regularly. So “Why do I put on the uniform everyday?”

I put on the uniform because I am a member of a world wide movement.

I put on the uniform because I am brother to all Scouts around the world.

I put on the uniform because it is a reminder to live according to the Scout Oath.

I put on the uniform because it is a reminder to live according to the Scout Law.

I put on the uniform because it removes all signs of being a part of a specific class or socioeconomic background.

I put on the uniform because it removes all signs of wealth or financial standing.

I put on the uniform because it shows the world I am a Scout.

I put on the uniform because it shows I am a fellow Scout to Scouts around the world.

I put on the uniform because I am a member of a uniformed organization.

I put on the uniform because it is a reminder that I belong to a specific Unit.

I put on the uniform because it is a reminder that I belong to a specific Scout Group.

I put on the uniform because it is a reminder that I belong to a specific District.

I put on the uniform because it is a reminder that I belong to a specific Local Council.

I put on the uniform because it is a reminder that I belong to a specific Region.

I put on the uniform because it is a reminder that I belong to a specific National Scout Organization (NSO).

I put on the uniform because I am a Scout on the inside and the outside.

I put on the uniform because I believe in the Scouting Way of Life.

I put on the uniform because I believe in the Spirit of Scouting.
I put on the uniform because I believe in the Ideals of Scouting.

I put on the uniform because I believe in the Patrol Method. The Patrol Method is the only way to do Scouting. Anything else isn't and as such it shouldn't be called Scouting.

I put on the uniform because I believe that saying “Do as I say, not as I do.” is the most unfair and stupid attitude a leader can have.

I put on the uniform because I believe in the saying “Show me a poorly uniformed leader, and I will show you a poorly uniformed Troop.”

I put on the uniform because I believe in the saying “Wear it right, or don't wear it at all.”

I put on the uniform because if I don't, how can I expect my Scouts to do the same.

I put on the uniform because I believe in empowering our youth.

I put on the uniform because I know that someone is always watching.

I put on the uniform because I believe in our young people.


I put on the uniform for many more reasons than listed here, yet I realize I won't always act worthy of putting on the uniform. Because I am human and I make mistakes But I also must “Do My Best” to be worthy of putting on the uniform or I will fail to fulfill what putting on the uniform means.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Scouting Isn't................

1) Scouting isn't school, yet Scouting has teachers.

2) Scouting isn't a sports team, yet Scouting promotes competition.

3) Scouting isn't physical education (PE), yet Scouting promotes physical fitness.

4) Scouting isn't a cult/gang, yet Scouting promotes group identity development.

5) Scouting isn't JROTCROTC, yet Scouting promotes military drills and discipline.

6) Scouting isn't the military, yet Scouting promotes a willingness to defend freedom.

7) Scouting isn't about the “first” or the “best”, yet Scouting honors those who perform above and beyond their expectations.

8) Scouting isn't about the top-dog, yet Scouting isn't just about the under-dogs.

9) Scouting isn't about the clothes you wear, yet Scouting promotes wearing the uniform properly.

10) Scouting isn't about the way you look, yet Scouting promotes having a good appearance.

11) Scouting isn't about being athlete, yet Scouting promotes the development of athletic ability.

12) Scouting isn't about learning-by-lecture, yet lecture does have its time and place in Scouting.

13) Scouting isn't about the indoors, yet sometimes activities do occur indoors.

14) Scouting isn't a swim team, yet swimming plays a critical be role in Scouting.

15) Scouting isn't science club, yet Scouting requires critical thinking and scientific observation.

16) Scouting isn't a conservation group, yet Scouting practices Outdoor Ethics and Leave No Trace.

17) Scouting isn't about politics, yet Scouting encourages active citizenship.

18) Scouting isn't a religion or church group, yet Scouting encourages religious and spiritual development.

19) Scouting isn't about who is the richest, yet Scouting promotes thriftiness.

20) Scouting isn't just about becoming an Eagle Scout, yet Scouting holds those who are Eagle Scouts in high esteem.

21) Scouting isn't just another way to college, yet Scouts are usually better prepared for the challenges of college.

22) Scouting isn't just another way to get a scholarship, yet there are scholarships specifically made for Scouts.

23) Scouting isn't just another class, yet there is learning and practicing.

24) Scouting isn't just arts and crafts, yet we do handicraft/creative projects.

25) Scouting isn't just about advancement, yet we encourage Scouts to climb the Trail of Scouting.

26) Scouting isn't just about becoming a good leader, yet we show that anyone can become a successful leader.

27) Scouting isn't just about character development, yet Scouts learn to show integrity.

28) Scouting isn't just a cult or fraternity, yet we honor and up-hold the traditions of Scouting.

29) Scouting isn't just about adults, yet adult association plays a role in what is Scouting.

30) Scouting isn't just for nerds/geeks, yet a large percentage identify as geeks/nerds.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Incident Review: Fatal Bear Attack in Utah

Purpose:
To further the knowledge of Scouters in regards to "Wildlife Risk Management" with a focus on "Bear Safety". Additionally, it is intended to serve as a resource in regards to developing a "Bear Safety Policy" for use at the unit, district, and local council. However, please understand that this is not intended to be a complete guide or to serve as the only source for developing a policy. As such, in order to ensure you develop a thorough and complete "Bear Safety Policy", it is highly recommended that the reader seek out further sources.

Objectives:

  • Understand what information should be included in a basic "Bear Safety Policy (BSP)"
  • Review the positive decisions made in this incident
  • Review the negative decisions made in this incident
  • Introduce liability and compensation concepts specific to this incident

Liability and Assumption of Risk:
You agree to hold harmless Mark West, ScoutingManiac, or its agents from any liability from the use or application of information provided herein. Further more you agree to hold harmless Mark West, ScoutingManiac or its agents from application of the opinions expressed herein that result in property loss, severe injury/disability, or death.

Further Questions/Concerns:
All questions or concerns should be forward to Mark West, Director of ScoutingManiac who can be reached via email at westybsa@gmail.com

Magazine Name:
Parks and Recreation Magazine
The Official Publication of the
National Recreation and Parks Association

Volume:
Volume 40

Issue:
10 (October 2013)

Department:
Law Review

Article Title:
No Warning of Nuisance Bear Threat to Campers

Author:
James C. Kozlowski, J.D., Ph.D.

Full Article:
On 08/19/2013, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Utah Supreme Court ruled “the state had a duty to protect a boy killed by a bear.” In so doing, the article noted that the Utah justices had also ruled that “a bear is not a natural condition” under a state immunity statute.

Subsequently, on 08/25/2013, the Salt Lake Tribune devoted one of its online “Trib Talk” chat sessions to this incident and the broader liability issue in a discussion entitled “Utah Bear Ruling and Outdoor Recreation.”

News reports created quite a stir about the “implications” of this “court ruling on bears in Utah.” Would the holding in this particular case create a “huge precedent” that would “apply to snakes, and other noxious or poisonous wildlife and insects”? If public landowners were liable for wildlife and insects, there was concern that the “net effect” would be to “close down campgrounds and restrict public access...............that is the only way they (public landowners) could protect the public.”

Generally, landowner liability for attacks by wild animals, including bears, should be the exception rather than the rule. This particular bear attack, however, presents one of those rare situations that triggered the exception to the general rule. In particular, agencies in control of the land had specific notice and knowledge of a particular nuisance bear in the area and failed to implement their own procedures to warn campers of an immediate threat. Most importantly, the fatal attack by the very same nuisance bear was very close in time and location to an earlier attack.

Federal District Court
The fatal bear attack at issue produced several published opinions in the federal and state courts. One of the earlier federal decisions, Francis v. United States (C.D. Ut. 01/30/2009) was described in an article entitled “Fatal Bear Attacks Test Immunity Laws” in the December 2009 Law Review column in Parks & Recreation Magazine.

Subsequently, in 2011, the federal district court revisited the case of Francis v. United States, Case No. 2:08CV244 DAK, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47544 (Dist. Utah 5/3/2011). In this case, an 11 yo boy, Sam Ives, was dragged from his family’s tent and killed by a black bear. The incident occurred late at night on Father’s Day,06/17/2007, in the American Fork Canyon Area of the Uintah National Forest on land managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS).

The plaintiffs, Kevan Francis and Rebecca Ives, Sam’s biological parents, sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Plaintiffs alleged that Forest Service employees were aware of the presence of a dangerous bear in the area and negligently failed to (1) warn campers of the presence of a dangerous bear or (2) close the remote camp site. In response, the United States contended that it was immune from any liability for negligence under the discretionary function exception to the FTCA.

Facts of the Case
On 06/16/2007  Jake Francom and friends camped in a dispersed camping area in the Uintah National Forest approximately 1.2 miles above the Timpooneke Campground. A “dispersed camping area" is outside of a designated campground and has no water or bathroom facilities. This particular campsite was often occupied.

At around 05:30, on 06/17/2007, Francom was attacked by a bear while sleeping in his tent. Francom yelled to his friends, who were sleeping in nearby tents, to get a gun. Francom and his friends exited their tents and scared the bear away with pistol shots. Francom was able to see that the bear was a large, cinnamon-colored black bear.

Francom reported the bear attack to Utah County Dispatch at 09:25, on 06172007. The Utah State Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) was also notified of the incident. The dispatcher subsequently reported the incident to a USFS law enforcement officer (LEO), Carolyn Gosse, at her home. Gosse said that she was not on duty, but she would let her district know of a reported bear attack that had resulted in some property damage, but no personal injuries. In this particular instance, Gosse did not return to duty in response to the reported bear attack because it was “impossible to find someone to watch her children on a Sunday.”

As a result, Gosse failed to contact anyone or take any action of any kind in response to the reported bear attack on Francom. Consequently, no one else employed by the USFS knew about the incident, and, as a result, no action was taken by the USFS to warn potential campers about the bear attack.

USFS regulations required that “compelling reasons” might require an employee to “remain on or return to duty” when a failure to “continue the employee’s duties…would constitute negligence.” In addition, the USFS Manual required an LEO to “investigate all accidents that involve the USFS and result in death, injury, illness and/or property damage.”

At approximately 10:00 on 06/17/2007 the DWR classified the bear that attacked Francom as a Level III nuisance bear. DWR had a three-level classification system for bears that constitute a threat to the public. The highest classification, Level III, is for bears that have shown no fear of humans, have displayed aggressive behavior toward humans and are deemed a threat to public safety. The DWR required that Level III bears be destroyed because of the risk to public safety.

DWR personnel responded to the Francom incident by pursuing the bear with dogs. They tracked the bear for approximately 4-5 hours, but the search was unsuccessful. The DWR ended its search for the bear at approximately 17:00 on 06/17/2007, but made plans to return to the Francom campsite the next morning. DWR intended to set a trap for the bear because it continued to be a threat to public safety and because the Francom campsite was the best place to attempt to trap the bear.

There was no one at the campsite when DWR ended the search, and DWR personnel did not think that anyone would camp at that site that evening because it was already 17:00 on a Sunday. If, however, anyone did camp there on 06/17/2007, the State of Utah acknowledged that the scent of humans and/or their food could attract the bear back to the Francom campsite.

As the DWR agents left the campsite and traveled down the canyon, they passed the Mulvey family, including Sam Ives, who were traveling in the opposite direction. The DWR agents did not stop the Mulveys or warn them of the earlier attack but merely waved as they passed.

The Forest Service District Ranger who was responsible for the relevant area testified that “a warning about the dangerous bear could easily have been placed on the gate at the head of Timpooneke Road 056, or that the whole area could have been closed off by simply closing the gate at the head of Timpooneke Road 056.” In the alternative, the Forest Service could have closed the specific Francom campsite by taping off the campsite with yellow tape.

On the evening of 06/17/2007, the Mulvey family camped in the same campsite where Francom had been attacked earlier that morning. The Mulvey family passed through Timpooneke Campground on their way to the campsite. They stopped and spoke with the Timpooneke Campground host on their way to the campsite.

The cost to camp in the Timpooneke Campground was $13, and Mr. Mulvey, Sam’s stepfather, did not have $13 with him. When Mr. Mulvey asked if they could camp up the road without paying the $13 fee, the camp host replied that it would be fine. Had he known of the Francom attack, the camp host would have informed the Mulvey family.

Moreover, the Mulvey family would not have camped in or anywhere near the area of the Francom campsite if they had been informed about the Francom attack. They would have returned home if they had known of the Francom attack. Not knowing of the bear attack just 12 hours earlier at that same site, the Mulvey family set up camp at the Francom campsite and cooked dinner.

Prior to Sam Ives’ disappearance from the tent, Mr. Mulvey heard Sam yell, “Help me.” Mr. Mulvey immediately ran out of the tent. In the darkness, he did not see or hear Sam. He soon saw that the tent had been slashed open, and Sam was not in the tent. After looking around the immediate area, Mr. Mulvey left to notify the campground host that someone had taken his stepson. Some time later, after law enforcement and the DWR were notified and a search had begun, Sam’s body was found approximately 400 yards away from the campsite.

Warning Obligation
In general, when “not unduly burdensome,” the federal district court found the usfs had “an obligation to warn visitors to National Forest Service lands of known incidences in the immediate area of aggressive bear behavior toward humans that constitute a threat to public safety.” In so doing, the federal district court reaffirmed its earlier 2009 pretrial decision that “the discretionary function exception to the FTCA does not apply to the US failure to warn about the earlier bear attack because it did not involve considerations of public policy.” On the contrary, following a trial, the court found existing regulations and policies indicated a lack of discretion and judgment on the part of USFS personnel in this particular instance.

Specifically, the court noted Gosse had violated two regulations that provided a specific course of conduct, requiring her “to have taken action in response to the attack on Mr. Francom.” Despite a mandatory directive to take action, Gosse “failed to take any action after being notified of the attack.” As a result, under the circumstances of this case, the court held “the US is not immune from liability in this case” under the discretionary function exception to the FTCA.

Negligence Liability
As cited by the federal district court, under the FTCA, “the government is liable in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances,” and “in accordance with the law of the place where the act occurred” (28 U.S.C. § 2674, 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1)). As a result, in the absence of discretionary function immunity, the court would, therefore, apply “state law to resolve questions of substantive liability,” in this case, applying Utah negligence liability law.

As noted by the court, the following four elements must be established for a negligence claim in Utah:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty
  2. The defendant breached that duty
  3. The breach of duty was a cause of the plaintiff’s injury
  4. The plaintiff in fact suffered injuries or damages.

In this particular instance, the federal district court found USFS employees owed plaintiffs “a duty to warn them about the earlier incident, whether the warning was oral, by posting signs on the gate of Timpanooke Road 56 and/or by roping off the specific campsite.”

This is particularly true when it became known [to the USFS] that they [the Mulvey family] were going to camp at a dispersed campsite, and the most likely dispersed site would be the very site where there had been an aggressive bear encounter just 12 hours prior.

Moreover, under the circumstances, in the opinion of the court, “it was foreseeable that the Francom bear would return to the campsite where it had earlier attacked campers and had found food” on 06/17/2007. Despite a legal duty to warn, the federal district court found sufficient evidence to conclude the Forest Service had “breached its duties by not warning the Mulvey family, or providing warning to those who would have communicated the warnings to the Mulvey family.”

Specifically, Ms. Gosse had a duty to follow up with the Francom attack by contacting her supervisor and others in the USFS who could address the problem if she was unable to respond, to confirm that the camp host at the nearest campground knew the details of the Francom attack, to make sure that potential campers in the area were warned about the attack and to contact someone in the USFS who could make a determination about whether to close either the Francom campsite or Timpooneke Road 056. Ms. Gosse also had a duty to contact the DWR so that the USFS and the DWR could act jointly.

As a result, the federal district court held, “Plaintiffs have proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant’s breaches were a cause of Sam Ives’ death and the Plaintiffs’ damages.”

Damages
Under Utah’s comparative negligence statute, the court would assess and allocate damages by the percentage of fault attributable to each responsible party. Accordingly, the federal district court attributed 25 percent of the fault to the State of Utah, through the DWR, “for failing to communicate with the Forest Service.”

While recognizing that “Mr. Francis, Mr. Mulvey and Ms. Ives have suffered an almost unbearable, unimaginable loss,” the court found it “would be abdicating its responsibility if it failed to allocate any fault whatsoever to Sam and his parents because of the food that was found in the family tent.” In so doing, the court acknowledged that “the question of whether Sam Ives contributed to his own death is judged by what a reasonable 11 yo child would do under the same or similar circumstances.”

When camping in known black-bear country, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that food and trash is properly stored. While it is certainly possible that the granola bar and the can of Coke Zero played no role in Sam’s tragic death, the court, under a preponderance of the evidence standard, cannot so rule.

As a result, the court assessed “10% of the fault to Sam” and his family. The federal district court attributed the remaining 65% of fault to the US for damages totaling $3 million. The court, therefore, entered judgment against the United States for $1.95 million of $3 million.

Narrow Ruling
In rendering this judgment and awarding damages, the federal district court cautioned “this finding of a duty and a breach of the duty is limited to the unique facts presented in this case.” In particular, the court emphasized that “no ruling” was being made “whether a duty to warn would arise or be breached in a slightly different situation, such as if the campers had been at a nearby — but not the same — campsite as the earlier bear attack or if the campers had camped at the site several days after an aggressive bear encounter.” On the contrary, the federal district court emphasized the narrowness of its ruling, limited to a particular situation wherein:

  1. There had been an aggressive bear encounter at the identical site where Plaintiffs set up camp
  2. The encounter had been approximately 12 hours before Plaintiffs arrived
  3. It would not have been onerous for Defendant to have warned Plaintiffs about the earlier attack (i.e., campers heading to the dispersed sites had to travel through the designated campground check-in point; there was a gate to which a sign could have been posted; a sign could have been posted at the campsite itself; or the campsite could have been roped or taped off).


Special Relationship Duty
Similarly, in the subsequent state court case, Francis v. State, 2013 UT 43; 2013 Utah LEXIS 115 (Utah 07/19/2013), the Supreme Court of Utah found “the State owed the Mulveys a duty because it undertook specific action to protect them as the next group to use the campsite.” In so doing, the Utah high court found “the State’s actions, specifically directed at the Campsite, gave rise to a special relationship between the State and the Mulveys.”

According to the court, a “special relationship and consequent duty” would arise when a government defendant “knew of the likely danger to an individual or distinct group of individuals.” In this particular instance, the court found the State “had knowledge of a specific threat and took action” given the fact that the State “undertook specific protective actions after the bear attacked Mr. Francom.”

In so doing, the court distinguished the facts of this case from an earlier case in which “a bear attacked a young girl while she was camping in Utah with her family.” In that earlier bear attack opinion, the court had found no evidence that “the DWR undertook to render any specific service to plaintiffs or to other campers.” More importantly, “the State had no knowledge or control of the bear when it entered the campground and attacked the girl.” Under such circumstances, no special relationship existed between DWR and the girl, because the State “could not have reasonably identified plaintiffs as likely to be harmed any more than the general public.”

In sharp contrast, in this particular instance, the Utah Supreme Court noted “the State clearly had knowledge and had already taken action directed at the Campsite by the time the bear attacked Sam.” As a result, the state supreme court found the State “had a special relationship with those who might occupy the Campsite,” including Sam and his family.

The Mulveys themselves were “reasonably identifiable” as the next group to use the Campsite. The DWR agents who swept the Campsite waved to them as they drove down Timpooneke Road in the direction of the Campsite. The Campsite was only one of a few on the dead-end Timpooneke Road. So although DWR could not specifically identify the Mulveys when its agents swept the Campsite, it nevertheless had reason to believe that the Mulveys could use the Campsite and could therefore be at risk.

Accordingly, in the opinion of the state supreme court, it was “reasonable as a matter of public policy to impose a duty on the State because it was “feasible for the State to take concrete steps to prevent the harm.”

After the bear attacked Mr. Francom, the threat the bear posed was no longer theoretical. The DWR agents knew that the Campsite was the best place to apprehend the bear because bears frequently return to locations where they have previously found food. They also knew that humans can act as bear attractants. The risk of another bear attack for those who might occupy the Campsite had thus “crystallized.”

Having found “the State owed a duty to the Mulveys as the next group to use the Campsite,” the court noted that the “class of people with which the State had a special relationship” was “very narrow,” i.e., “the group that DWR took specific action to protect.” The state supreme court, therefore, found “the district court had erred when it granted summary judgment on the basis that the State owed no duty to the Mulveys.”

Natural Topography
The state supreme court then considered “whether the State is immune from liability under the Immunity Act.” Specifically, the court would determine whether the “natural condition exception” to the Utah Governmental Immunity Act precluded liability for the alleged negligent failure of the State “to warn the Mulveys of the dangerous condition created by the bear.”

As cited by the state supreme court, Utah Code section 63G-7-301(5)(k) immunized the State from liability in those instances where the plaintiffs’ injury “arises out of, in connection with, or results from any natural condition on publicly owned or controlled lands.” Plaintiffs had argued that a bear was not a “natural condition” as contemplated by the immunity statute because “wildlife is not a condition on land.” To the surprise of many, based upon subsequent media reports, the state supreme court agreed.

In the opinion of the state supreme court, “the natural condition exception does not immunize the State from liability, because a bear is not a ‘natural condition on publicly owned or controlled lands.’” To reach this conclusion, the court had to consider “an issue of statutory interpretation” in determining whether “indigenous wildlife is a natural condition on public land.” In so doing, the state supreme court applied the following generally accepted “principles of statutory interpretation” for courts:

When interpreting a statute, our goal is to give effect to the legislature’s intent and purpose. To determine legislative intent, we begin with the statute’s plain language. And when discerning the plain meaning of the statute, terms that are used in common, daily, nontechnical speech, should, in the absence of evidence of a contrary intent, be given the meaning which they have for laymen in such daily usage.

Accordingly, the state supreme court would “construe the term ‘natural condition’ in light of its ordinary meaning, as laymen would use it in daily usage.” In the opinion of the court, individuals “would not ordinarily refer to a bear, or wildlife generally, as a ‘condition’ on the land.” On the contrary, in the view of the court, “the more ordinary meaning of a ‘condition on the land’ seems to connote features that have a much closer tie to the land itself, such as rivers, lakes or trees.”

These conditions are more directly a part of and persist “on the land,” whereas a bear is much more transitory in nature. We accordingly limit application of the natural condition exception to those conditions that are closely tied to the land or that persist “on the land” — conditions that are topographical in nature.

Within the context of state immunity law, the state supreme court, therefore, held “a natural condition ‘on’ the land must be topographical in nature” (emphasis of court). The state supreme court, therefore, would “exclude wildlife from the natural condition exception” because wildlife “is not topographical in nature.”

Our duty when interpreting a statute, however, is to give effect to the legislature’s intent and purpose…This is especially true given that the legislature could easily have stated expressly that the State retains immunity for injuries arising from indigenous wildlife. While the legislature cannot anticipate every incident that may occur in our state’s vast public lands, it seems particularly obvious that injury will arise from the public’s inevitable confrontations with wildlife. Given this obvious risk, it seems somewhat unlikely that the legislature would use the term “natural condition” to retain immunity from injuries arising out of or in connection with bears or other wildlife.

As a result, the state supreme court concluded “the district court erred when it granted summary judgment for the State on the basis of natural condition immunity.” The state supreme court, therefore, remanded (sent back) the case for further proceedings at the trial court to determine whether the State owed a legal duty to the Mulveys under the circumstances of this case. On remand, the state supreme court noted that the State could raise “alternative arguments.” These alternative defense arguments might include the state recreational use statute and/or common law principles wherein there generally is no landowner legal duty to warn or guard against indigenous wildlife on the premises.

Recreational Use Statute?
Under the Utah state recreational use statute (RUS), Utah Code 57-14-101 to 204, “an owner of land owes no duty of care to keep the land safe for entry or use by any person entering or using the land for any recreational purpose or to give warning of a dangerous condition, use, structure or activity on the land.” Under the RUS, an owner would still be liable for injuries to recreational users caused by the owner’s “willful or malicious conduct” or “where the owner of land charges a person to enter or go on the land or use the land for any recreational purpose.”

The RUS expressly includes “camping” in the statutory definition of “recreational purpose.” Further, the RUS defines an “owner” as “the possessor of any interest in the land, whether public or private land, including a tenant, a lessor, a lessee, an occupant or person in control of the land.” While the USFS would be an “owner” arguably, DWR might be considered an “occupant” with a possessory interest in the land under the RUS. Specifically, pursuant to a memorandum of understanding with the USFS, DWR was responsible for managing, controlling and regulating wildlife populations on USFS lands.

In addition, the RUS provides immunity for “personal injury or property damage caused by the inherent risks of participating in an activity with a recreational purpose on the land.” The RUS defines “inherent risks” to include “those dangers, conditions, and potentials for personal injury or property damage that are an integral and natural part of participating in an activity for a recreational purpose.”

In this particular instance, no charge was made for the dispersed campsite where the incident occurred. Further, the statutory definition of “dangerous condition” under the RUS, unlike “natural condition” in the Immunity Act, would presumably not be limited to topographical conditions on the land. On the contrary, a “natural part of participating” in camping activity in this environment arguably includes the “inherent risk” of encounters with wild animals, including black bears.

Accordingly, if a state or federal court had found the RUS applicable, plaintiffs would have had a much more difficult burden of proof to establish liability based upon “willful or malicious conduct,” not ordinary negligence. For some unknown reason, it appears that neither the Forest Service nor the State of Utah raised limited immunity under the Utah RUS as a defense. As a result, neither the federal district court nor the Utah state courts considered the applicability of the Utah RUS in this case. On remand, if it chose to do so, presumably, the State could still raise the RUS defense among “alternative arguments."

We will begin discussing this article in detail in additional posts and as such I leave you with these quotes:

"The mountains are calling, and I must go."
~John Muir

"In the wilderness is the preservation of the world."
~Henry David Thoreau

Thank you all for your service to Scouting and may the "Great Scoutmaster of all the Scoutmasters be with you until we meet again."

Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
ASM Troop 0669
Council Aquatics/Outdoor Ethics
Council Program/Training/Camping

If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a Professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Did You Know: TSA Edition #31


Did You Know........

Scout Leaders contribute the equivalent of 37 million hours of voluntary work every year.........worth an estimated 380 million Euros.

Source:




Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
ASM Troop 1316/Troop 0669
Council Aquatics/Outdoor Ethics
Council Program/Training/Camping


If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Did You Know: TSA Edition #30


Did You Know........

In the past decade, 43,000 girls and young women have joined Scouts, Cubs and Beavers. That's the same as the population of Folkestone!

Source:




Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
ASM Troop 1316/Troop 0669
Council Aquatics/Outdoor Ethics
Council Program/Training/Camping


If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Did You Know: TSA Edition #29


Did You Know........

Sea Scouts helped evacuate Dunkirk during World War II.

Source:




Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
ASM Troop 1316/Troop 0669
Council Aquatics/Outdoor Ethics
Council Program/Training/Camping


If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Did You Know: TSA Edition #28


Did You Know........

During Scout Community Week, 16,000 Scouts and volunteers across the UK cleared 800 tonnes of rubbish, which is equivalent to 65 full double-decker buses.

Source:




Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
ASM Troop 1316/Troop 0669
Council Aquatics/Outdoor Ethics
Council Program/Training/Camping


If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Intent: What Do Cub Scouts Want From Scouting?

During my last post "The Promise: What Do Cub Scouts Want From Scouting?" I discussed a couple of key things, which include Cub Scouting is an OUTDOOR activity NOT an INDOOR activity. I just have to repeat that in case you misunderstood me...........Cub Scouting is an OUTDOOR activity NOT an INDOOR activity. But you may ask................"Why do something outside when it can be done inside?" Because doing something "inside" that should be done "outside" doesn't make you a Scout, it makes you, well, I don't know what it makes you, but it most definitely makes you not a Scout. So then what makes a "Scout" a "Scout"? While the answer to this should be simple and straightforward, the true meaning of what a "Scout" is has become skewed. It has become skewed to the point where some even question whether "Modern Scouting" is "Scouting" at all. But not all hope is lost and it would only require slight changes to make "Modern Scouting", "Real Scouting". So then what is a "Scout"?

A Scout....................enjoys a hike through the woods more than he does a walk over the city's streets.

A Scout.....................Can tell North from South and East from West with or without a compass.

A Scout.....................Can find his way in unfamiliar territory.

A Scout.....................Knows his city.

A Scout.....................Can give directions to those in need.

A Scout.....................Knows where to get help if the need may arise.

A Scout.....................Knows where the nearest police or fire station is to his house, his school, and his Troop Meeting spot.

A Scout.....................Is not above asking for help but also can find his own way.

A Scout.....................Knows their is strength in being gentle.

A Scout.....................Knows when and how to defend himself.

A Scout.....................Knows to not cause any living thing undue harm.

A Scout.....................Knows the difference between "right" and "wrong."

A Scout.....................Can tie a knot that will hold.

A Scout.....................Can climb a tree with ease.

A Scout.....................Can swim a river or lake.

A Scout.....................Can pitch a tent and make a comfortable bed in the middle of nowhere.

A Scout.....................Can give first aid.

A Scout.....................Can row a boat or paddle a canoe.

A Scout.....................Knows the stars by name and can find his way by them.

A Scout.....................Walks through the woods with silent tread.

A Scout.....................Has keen eyes to notice many things that others won't see.

A Scout.....................Has ears to hear things that others would miss.

A Scout.....................Has a sharp sense of smell.

A Scout.....................Can kindle a fire even on the wettest or coldest day.

A Scout.....................Rarely uses more than one match.

A Scout.....................Can kindle a fire without a match.

A Scout.....................Can use and sharpen his blade.

A Scout.....................Can split and chop wood with ease.

A Scout.....................Can use an ax or a saw safely and efficiently.

A Scout.....................Knows that bravery doesn't mean you don't have fears.

Obviously, A Scout can do many things, as this is only a short list of the things a Scout should know. The take-away point here isn't about what a Scout can do, it is that many things a Scout can do must be done outside. And since most things a Scout can do are outside activities a Scout prides himself on knowing and understanding the woods. He is a true outdoors-men, an explorer, an adventurer, a seeker, and a craftsman.

Well, as normal I haven't made it as far as I would have liked to but the good news is that we still have made progress.

Blessed are the Cub Scouts who are led with patience and understanding.........................For they will learn the strength of endurance and the gift of tolerance.

May the Great Scoutmaster or all the Scoutmasters, be with you until we meet again.


Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
ASM Troop 1316/Troop 0669
Council Aquatics/Outdoor Ethics
Council Program/Training/Camping
Council Special Needs Scouting Support Services

If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a Professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Did You Know: TSA Edition #27

Did You Know........

Polar Explorer Ernest Shackleton took two Scouts with him on his final expedition to the Antarctic on the RSS Discovery.

Source:




Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
ASM Troop 1316/Troop 0669
Council Aquatics/Outdoor Ethics
Council Program/Training/Camping


If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Promise: What Do Cub Scouts Want From Scouting?

Cub Scouting is supposed to be "fun", "exciting", "vigorous", and most importantly "outside". Why is "being outside" the most important element of Cub Scouting? It is the most important element because Scouting is deliberately designed to happen outside. But this "outside element" of Scouting is ignored on a frequent basis for many different excuses. Excuses like.........

  • It's too cold outside.
  • It's too windy outside.
  • It's too hot outside.
  • It's too dark outside.
  • It's too light outside.
  • It's raining.
  • It's snowing.
I could go on and on and on with excuses people, especially parents, have told me as why they don't want or won't let their Cub Scout go outside. But if the "outside" is the most important element of Cub Scouting, then why do we deny them of this element?

We deny them because of fear. We deny them because of worry. We deny them because of anxiety. We deny them because the world is a dangerous place. We deny them because they could get hurt. We deny them because their is too much risk involved. We deny them because we don't want them to get hurt. We deny them because they will get dirty. We deny them because they will make a mess. We deny them because we don't want to go outside. We deny them because we don't want to be cold. We deny them because we don't want to get wet. We deny them because we will get dirty. We deny them because we don't like nature. We deny them because we don't understand what the outdoors does for kids.

But yet...............We complain when they can't concentrate.

But yet................We complain when they can't focus.

But yet................We complain when they don't have self-discipline.

But yet.................We complain when they lack self-control.

But yet.................We complain about lack of self-esteem.

But yet.................We complain about lack of self-confidence.

But yet.................We complain when they are loud.

But yet.................We complain when they are rowdy.

But yet.................We complain they are obnoxious.

But yet.................We complain they are rude and inappropriate.

But yet.................We complain they can't sit still.

But yet.................We complain that they won't go outside.

But yet.................We complain that they are lazy.

But yet.................We complain that they are not physically fit.

But yet.................We complain that they don't like rain.

But yet.................We complain that they don't like snow.

But yet.................We complain that they don't enjoy the outdoors.

But yet.................We complain that they don't respect the environment.

But yet.................We complain that they don't enjoy mother nature.

There are many more complaints I could come up with but I think you get the picture. So now that we know what the problem is, how do we solve it? For now I leave you with that question to ponder yourself.

And for now.............."May the Great Scoutmaster of all the Scoutmaster's be with you until we meet again."

Blessed are the Cub Scouts who are taught to see beauty in all things around them.........................For their world will be a place of grace and wonder.


Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
ASM Troop 1316/Troop 0669
Council Aquatics/Outdoor Ethics
Council Program/Training/Camping

If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a Professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Did You Know: TSA Edition #26

Did You Know........

Scouts are in the news all the time! Each month more than 70 positive mentions are made on the radio, TV and in the papers.

Source:




Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
ASM Troop 1316/Troop 0669
Council Aquatics/Outdoor Ethics
Council Program/Training/Camping


If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Did You Know: TSA Edition #25

Did You Know........

When Scout volunteer The Duchess of Cambridge was pictured wearing a pair of Le Chameau Vierzonard Wellies, sales of the boots rocketed over 30%.

Source:




Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
ASM Troop 1316/Troop 0669
Council Aquatics/Outdoor Ethics
Council Program/Training/Camping


If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Did You Know: TSA Edition #24

Did You Know........

John Lennon and Paul McCartney went to Cubs together.

Source:




Yours in Scouting Service
Mark West
Eagle Scout
ASM Troop 1316/Troop 0669
Council Aquatics/Outdoor Ethics
Council Program/Training/Camping


If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

"If I Were King"

If I were King of France I wouldn't allow any child of under twelve years to come into a town. Till then youngsters would have to live in the open......................out in the sun, in the fields, in the woods, in company with dogs and horses, face to face with nature, which strengthens the bodies, lends intelligence to understanding, gives poetry to the soul, and rouses in them a curiosity which is more valuable to education than all the grammar books in the world.

They would understand the noises as well as the silences of the night; they would have the best of religions.................that which God himself reveals in the glorious sight of his daily wonders. And at twelve years of age, strong, high-minded, and full of understanding they would be capable of receiving the methodical instruction which it would be right to give them, and whose inculcation would then be easily accomplished in four or five years.

"Unfortunately for youngsters, though happily for France,
I don't happen to be king."

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