Scouts Save SpeciesDr. James Danoff-Burg, Director of Conservation July 26, 2021
Participating in Scouting has improved the lives of many of us. I can say with great certainty that a big part of why I am such an ardent conservationist, outdoors person, and all-around lover of nature is due to the decade I spent in Boy Scouts as a youth. Girl Scouts build girls of courage, confidence, and competence while helping to make the world a better place. Many of our staff here at The Living Desert not only participated in scouting, but have reached its highest levels as a Gold Award Girl Scout or an Eagle Scout in Scouts BSA.
To become a Gold Award or Eagle Scout, a scout needs to complete a large project that will not only help make the world a better place, but also enable them to gain project planning and leadership skills. It is often difficult to find an organization that has the interest and ability to help scouts with diverse interests, as I encountered as I was trying to design my own Eagle Scout project in Laramie, Wyoming. With COVID restrictions on top of the normal challenges, it has been even harder for them. Because of this, The Living Desert decided to step up over the last year and help many scouts reach their full potential.
Since November of 2021, we have had five Eagle Scouts complete projects on the grounds of The Living Desert. These scouts worked with me to design their project for something that we have needed done at The Living Desert. Once their review committees approved it, we planned and implemented the projects. These amazing projects have included two that were focused on improving desert tortoise pens that we use for rearing and releasing desert tortoises back into the wild, one that created a native plant interpretation presentation at the Trains Exhibit, one improved the well-being for the wallabies and echidna in Australia, and one that helped us restack pavers that were strewn about because their pallets degraded.
Each of these projects have met a crucial need that The Living Desert had and will allow us to be an even more effective conservation organization! We are so grateful to each of the scouts, their families and troops, and their other volunteers for all the great work that they each did. Most of the above projects are obviously of great conservation and animal welfare benefits, but the project restacking the parking lot pavers is one that merits some extra attention. Not only did that scout make it possible for us to be able to move and thus use those pavers next year, their work has made it possible for us to progress with a very large zoo-wide reorganization and improvement project that was stuck until their project was completed!
Scouts not only help us with their Eagle Scout and Gold Award projects, they helped in one-off interventions that got more accomplished than we could have even hoped! A group of Scouts BSA spent nearly a full Saturday with us to complete their large service project to earn their Order of the Arrow, another prestigious award through scouting. This group of 40 scouts helped us clean up and greatly remodel a building where we will be rearing an imperiled population of Western pond turtles. Since they had some extra time, they also assembled some tables for our plant propagation center – all in one day!
We have had several Girl Scout and Scouts BSA troops come out and help us with trail maintenance in a morning. One artistic group of Girl Scouts created solitary bee nest boxes to facilitate reproduction of these important desert pollinators.
Scouts save species, and The Living Desert feels lucky to have such an extensive network of supportive scouts from across Southern California. Thanks to all that you Scouts have done to make our corner of the world here at The Living Desert a better place for species, ecosystems, and humans!
Did You Know...
- In the 1970s, Boy Scouts helped clear the inaugural 3-mile nature trail here at The Living Desert.
- Before the 1990s, fewer than 2% of all Boy Scouts earned the Eagle Award. Since the 1990s, the percentage who reach the highest level each year have increased to about 7%! It is a rare accomplishment.
- The Gold Award, the highest accomplishment among Girl Scouts of the USA is achieved even less commonly at present. Fewer than 6% of all Girl Scouts receive the Gold Award!
The Order of the Arrow recognizes Scouts BSA who best live the Scout Oath and Law every day. To achieve this rare honor, the prospective scout must complete an ordeal. The ordeal ranges widely, but it may involve a large service project or a strenuous camping or hiking achievement.