Outdoor ethics guide, a troop-level position of responsibility, gets its own handbook

The outdoor ethics guide, a troop-level position of responsibility for youth that in January 2016 replaced the position of Leave No Trace trainer, now has its very own handbook.

The Outdoor Ethics Guide Handbook is available now as a free PDF download. Offering the resource as a free PDF means the document can be updated regularly as BSA partners like the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and Tread Lightly! revise their messaging.

While it’s primarily aimed at the young person who will serve as outdoor ethics guide, there are sections written for the adult leader serving as outdoor ethics guide advisor.

A team of volunteers created the handbook. It includes a list of rank requirements and merit badges the outdoor ethics guide can help fellow Scouts earn, tips for planning outdoor adventures that minimize impact on the outdoors, and printable worksheets, duty rosters and planning guides.

What is the outdoor ethics guide?

Essentially, the outdoor ethics guide is the primary role model on how to behave outdoors.

The outdoor ethics guide, shortened here to OEG, will help others make choices that reduce impacts on our natural world.

The OEG challenges his troop to:

  • Minimize what impacts you can.
  • Avoid those you cannot.
  • Preserve the quality of outdoor resources and recreational experience.

The OEG works with younger Scouts to help introduce them to the concepts of the Outdoor Code, principles of Leave No Trace and the ideals of Tread Lightly!

Think of the OEG as an outdoors coach. Think of the Outdoor Ethics Guide Handbook as a playbook listing all the right moves.

What are some examples of what an OEG might do?

Before the trip:

  • Help plan outings in a way that minimizes impacts.
  • Help the troop understand rules and regulations at a particular outdoor spot.
  • Ensure the troop has the right equipment to leave minimal impact.

During the trip:

  • Make adjustments on the fly — things like encouraging the troop to stay on the trail or set up tents in the proper place.
  • At the end of each day, discuss what the troop did right and what might be improved.

Can Venturing crews have an OEG?

Yes! Venturing crews can assign the responsibility of outdoor ethics guide to a member, but it is not a leadership position.

Can a troop have more than one OEG?

Yes! From the Outdoor Ethics Guide Handbook:

A troop can choose to have several outdoor ethics guides and assign portions of the responsibilities to each. As an example, a troop might choose to have an older Scout attend the Leave No Trace trainer course and focus on high-adventure planning

Does the OEG count toward rank advancement?

Yes! The outdoor ethics guide is one of the positions of responsibility that counts toward Star, Life and Eagle Scout rank advancement.

Scouts who serve in this role for at least four months as a First Class Scout can count that service toward the Star rank. The time requirement increases to a minimum of six months as a Star Scout for Life and at least six months as a Life Scout for Eagle.

Is there any training required to be an OEG?

No. That said, the person in the position should read the Outdoor Ethics Guide Handbook. Leave No Trace and/or Tread Lightly! Training courses are still encouraged as well.

For additional help or to locate a training course, contact your council outdoor ethics advocate. You can find council contacts listed here.

What’s in the Outdoor Ethics Guide Handbook?

The 25-page document includes:

  • An explanation of the outdoor ethics guide’s role.
  • A list of rank requirements the outdoor ethics guide can help fellow Scouts earn.
  • Outdoor program planning tips.
  • A list of functions of the outdoor ethics guide advisor.
  • A self-evaluation for the outdoor ethics guide.
  • An explanation of the Teaching EDGE method.
  • A fillable duty roster for delegating Leave No Trace responsibilities.
  • A Leave No Trace troop assessment form.
  • A fillable planning guide with a Leave No Trace focus.
  • A conservation project checklist.
  • A list of websites to learn more.

What happened to the position of Leave No Trace trainer?

Leave No Trace trainer was a youth position in the troop. In January 2016, it was replaced by the OEG. The Scout in this now-defunct role brought the message of Leave No Trace to all Scouts in the troop.

BSA volunteers felt it was time to expand the position to include more than just Leave No Trace.

The new role encompasses Leave No Trace, the Outdoor Code and Tread Lightly!


  1. A title with no line authority means pursuasion and soft ‘leadership’, at best.
    It is comparable to being appointed “chairperson” of a one person committee with no budget or authority

    • Hello Old Scout –
      I acknowledge your point about “one person committees”, however I don’t understand the broader relevance of your comment in the context of the Outdoor Ethics Guide position and this blog post. Several troop positions of responsibility do not include “line authority”, including scribe, librarian, and historian. These positions have met the requirements for Star, Life, and Eagle ranks for many years – at least since the 1970’s, when I was a Scout. The Outdoor Ethics Guide role is comparable in leadership responsibilities to the Chaplain Aide, Den Chief, and Troop Guide. If your concern is that none of these positions require direct supervision (or “line authority”) of other Scouts, then perhaps your comment is better directed to those who decide on the requirements for Boy Scout rank advancement.
      David O’Leary
      Chair, National Outdoor Ethics Task Force
      Boy Scouts of America

  2. Really a 25 page booklet? Why don’t you create a 100 slide powerpoint to go along with it. I don’t know a single scout who would read this or has the time to. You guys are thinking like corporate America. How about simplifying it into a 1 page document. Outdoor Ethics is not that complicated.

    • I’d recommend reading the document before passing judgment. It’s not a 25-page essay. More than half of the pages are unit resources the OEG can print and use in his troop.

    • Not only has my son read it, multiple times, he is planning on approaching his Scout Master to be his troop’s first Outdoor Ethics Guide when his current POR term is over. He is putting together a presentation/proposal to present his reasons for creating this new POR in his troop. He also wants to take additional training to be sure he is good at it.

      If a boy will not read a 25 page booklet for a POR towards rank advancement, then they surely are not reading the merit badge pamphlets either. Maybe those should be one page documents as well.

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