Thursday, March 04, 2010

Boy Scout Hiking In Yellowstone Preserved

Last month I posted about the prospect of Camp Loll losing most of its back country hiking opportunities in nearby Yellowstone National Park. In my post, I asserted that this condition arose pursuant to a Sierra Club lawsuit. It turns out that this was a misunderstanding. I apologize for spreading this idea. Rather, the park service was working to respond to recent heavier use of the Bechler area of Yellowstone.

A number of Camp Loll’s supporters called or wrote to their congressional delegations, Yellowstone’s superintendent, and the chief of Yellowstone’s Concessions Management Division. I received a prompt reply from the park superintendent assuring me that a park delegation would meet with representatives of Camp Loll and Trapper Trails Council, BSA to address the issue.

That meeting occurred yesterday. Camp Director Delose Connor provides a brief report on the congenial meeting in this post. The rangers were very interested in accommodating Camp Loll’s hikers, but they also clearly outlined the need to limit impact to the Bechler area to preserve its wilderness quality. The rangers’ main concern was daily impact.

The rangers explained that the notification demanding that Camp Loll obtain a conditional use permit was meant for commercial entities and had been sent to the Scout council in error. The camp is, however, required to obtain a special use permit that is essentially an agreement on usage. Any other nonprofits with outdoor aims that want to use the area on a regular basis will need to do the same. The good news is that the park appears very willing to work with such groups.

At yesterday’s meeting, the ranger staff and the Scouting representatives worked together to craft a plan that would maximize Yellowstone back country hiking opportunities while achieving the goal of moderating daily impact on the Bechler area. Delose will provide more details when the agreement is complete and signed, but the gist is that it is a win-win solution.

The camp will be able to continue its current program for the 2010 season. Beginning in 2011, the camp will split its hike day across two days. During the season, half of the camp will hike on each Wednesday while the other half participates in the normal in-camp program. They will switch these activities on Thursdays. Camp Loll will need to hire a few more staffers to maintain its ability to run a competent in-camp program while a number of staffers are off hiking. But it is exciting to note that a couple of new hiking opportunities will be made available to the camp’s hikers.

All of this will work together to reduce daily impact on the Bechler area, while still allowing the camp to send roughly the same number of hikers into the park each week as they have for years. More hiking variety will be available. Units that go on shorter hikes and return to camp earlier in the afternoon will have the opportunity to participate in programs that have previously been closed on hike days. With fewer hikers going to Union Falls on any given hike day, hikers will be able to spend more time at Scout Pool.

I am breathing a sigh of relief. Not only will I be able to hike to Union Falls with my son and his Scout troop this summer, the new agreement between Camp Loll and Yellowstone will be an improvement for all interested parties and for the environment.

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