Scouts and the DNR: A Long Tradition of Conservation Collaboration
The DNR and Scouting
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) works closely with its constituents - citizens, businesses and organizations - on cooperative projects to improve habitat, air and water quality, and to support outdoor recreation activities. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts organizations are among the oldest, and perhaps least recognized, of these partners. The Boy Scouts of America celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010; the Girl Scouts' centennial followed closely in 2012.
It is not clear when the first cooperative projects began between the scout programs and the department, but almost any DNR field staffer can identify some project completed on state land or remember a scouting event using state land or facilities. Conservation projects completed by scouts, and supported by the DNR, have touched the lives of Michigan's citizens in many different ways.
Scout projects have improved and maintained trails, protected sensitive areas, improved shooting ranges, provided nesting habitat for birds and increased accessibility to outdoor users.
As important as these service projects is the organizations' commitment to getting kids outdoors. Scouting has long encouraged a healthy relationship with the outdoors. Both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can earn advancement and awards for many different areas of natural resources stewardship or outdoor recreation activities. The highlight of most scouts' year is their participation in one of the many scout-camp programs offered across the state. Many programs, whether day camps for younger scouts or residential week-long camps, are centered around outdoor recreation. Scouts can earn awards or recognition for events like hiking, fishing, archery, shotgun and rifle shooting, canoeing and kayaking.
Scouting is based on developing citizens who are leaders and are engaged in service to their community and nation. The DNR congratulates and thanks the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts for their untold hours of service and their commitment to the outdoors and our state's natural resources. We look forward to another 100 years of partnership.
Several scout projects have developed into long-term partnerships with the DNR:
- The Chief Pontiac Trail, established in 1958, runs through Highland Recreation Area and Proud Lake Recreation Area. Scouts can earn a medal and other recognition for their activities while hiking the trail. The Great Lakes Council, Boy Scouts of America recently completed "Fort Pontiac" – a living-history theme area along the trail – to heighten the experience. Chief Pontiac Trail Committee members provide programs and assistance with service projects for scouts who use the facility.
- The Potawatomi Trail in Pinckney State Recreation Area was conceived in 1957 when a scout could not find any local places to prepare for his troop's trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Scouts chipped in to develop a trail of about 14 miles through the hilly terrain. The trail has since grown to 17 miles and not only is used by hikers but has become a popular destination spot for trail cyclists in southeastern Michigan.
- The most recent trail to be sponsored by a local scout council is the 210-mile Midland-to-Mackinac Trail that follows an ancient Indian footpath. The trail, which runs across several state forest management areas, was rededicated in 2001 for use by hikers and cross-country skiers.
- The granddaddy of all scout partnerships with the DNR is no doubt the Mackinac Island Scout Service Camp. Since 1929 scouts (including a 16-year-old Gerald R. Ford) have served as honor guards at Fort Mackinac. A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) building became the permanent scout barracks in 1937. From May through early September, scouts raise and lower flags, provide assistance at several historic locations and conduct other service projects. Visiting scouts now provide more than 30,000 hours of volunteer support and service each summer.
- An important partnership with the local scouting council supports the restoration and preservation of Walker Tavern at its state historic site in Lenawee County. In 2007 more than 300 scouts participated in a camporee/service project to build a brick walkway on the site.
- The Michigan History Museum in Lansing, which is part of the DNR, offers a variety of programs for scouts. The museum's award-winning education staff has created unique opportunities for scouts to build skills, develop talents and earn badges - all while discovering Michigan's past. Check the Michigan History Center calendar of events where scouts can earn badges.
Scouting was an important influence in the lives of many DNR employees. A recent inquiry identified more than 75 current DNR employees who were active in scouting and earned high honors through Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Many shared how their scouting experience played an important role in their career choices. Beyond this small group earning eagle or gold awards, participating in scouting programs has had an impact on a much larger cadre of employees. Many DNR employees are currently mentors and leaders for local scouting organizations as well.