Learn from the Handbook: Boy Scouts and Leave No Trace

Subaru_tt With millions of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers heading to national parks, state parks, and other public land each year, there's bound to be some irreversible harm done to nature.

But the point of Leave No Trace is to minimize that harm. The organization, whose Web site is available here, travels the country to educate Scouts and Scouters about the best ways to enjoy the outdoors without abusing it.

Cracker Barrel heard a presentation from two LNT Traveling Trainers at a conference at Philmont last week. The presenters told us that the BSA spends a combined 30 million days outside each year. That's a lot of impact!

And even though your unit may be practicing responsible use, other units aren't so courteous, we were told. Here are four common complaints LNT hears about Scouting units:

  • The kids are out of control.
  • Units make too much noise.
  • Groups are too large.
  • Scouts exhibit poor camping skills.

So what can be done to get back on the right track? Start with Chapter 7 of the new Boy Scout Handbook. The chapter, which starts on page 244, discusses the principles of Leave No Trace and how boys can implement them in their troop. The BSA has taken a proactive approach to the program, making Leave No Trace a requirement for Second Class and First Class.

Looking to do even more? You can ask the LNT Traveling Trainers to make a visit to your crew, troop, or pack meeting. If they have time and are in the area, they'll stop by for free to give a presentation. Just click here for details.

Chime In: What is your unit doing to minimize its impact on the planet? How can you be doing better?


  1. Sadly, our unit (and most I know) does a good job at claiming to have a LNT ethic, but doesn’t live that ethic.
    Most people I know hate to camp anywhere near BSA units, with the possible exception of Venturing units.

  2. My Cub Scout Pack had an outstanding Leave No Trace weekend last week. We invited our local REI LNT Master Educator in to conduct the training. The boys had a blast!!! They had tons of props and information to display and I provided each Cub their own blue rope to hang their LNT ethics card. At the next Pack meeting, I plan to award each Cub with the LNT Awareness Training certificate. The event served as a great kickoff to their Cub Scout LNT Award. Next week we’ll put our instruction into practice when we participate in a 2 mile Underground Railroad hike. As a service project, we will hand out LNT ethics cards to other hikers and encourage them to observe the principles. We’ll also be prepared to pickup any litter we come across. Hopefully by the time these Cubs become Boy Scouts, the lessons learned will become second nature.

  3. This post and especially the four complaints that LNT hears about scouting has been nagging at me for a couple days.
    Are scout groups louder than others on the trail? Probably. Are they louder than other large groups of teen and pre-teen aged boys on a trail? I doubt it. Yes we can do better at breaking hiking groups into smaller pods (assuming that we can pull together enough leaders to maintain two deep leadership).
    But the folks who complain about other hikers and campers, do they ever stop to wonder what impression they are leaving on scouts who may be on one of their first experiences in the outdoors? Did they try to point out something cool alongside the trail or just stand there fuming? Did they offer news of a not to miss or a best avoided section on the next day’s trail or sit silently at their own stove wishing the group would go away?
    You bet that adults involved with scouting need more information, training and expertise. But we also can’t wait until we know everything before taking scouts out on the trail, because we never will know everything.
    I’m taking a large group of Webelos on a 3 miler in a couple weeks. My concerns are that they will bring enough water and snacks, stay (mostly) on the trail, and hopefully decide that outside has something to offer them that nature programming on cable and their video games doesn’t.
    If I sound frustrated, it is because I am. It seems like it is easy to complain about scouts (and other novices). It is a lot harder to be helpful and to be a resource.

  4. Hello
    These are really true complains about scouting units.You have given really nice information.Thank you very much for sharing this with us.

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