Philmont’s Land Management Symposium is next week. Here’s why it’s a big deal

Photo by Michael Roytek

Conservation and stewardship of the land has been a central tenet of the BSA since its inception. It makes sense, then, that Philmont Scout Ranch — one of the BSA’s flagship locations — would be hosting a symposium that’s bringing together some of the nation’s leading subject matter experts on the topic.

The 2023 Land Management Symposium isn’t like other programs offered at The Philmont Training Center. The event being held next week will bring together some of the leading stakeholders in land management from across the country.

“What we’re trying to do is bring together policy makers and decision makers in the field of land management for a discussion about cutting edge, new components of stewardship or practices that seem to be working,” says Dave Kenneke, Philmont’s director of ranching and conservation. “There’s a natural goodness that comes from people who are involved in the stewardship of landscape and getting them into the same room.”

The symposium will bring together subject matter experts in the fields of water conservation, soil regeneration, stream restoration, land use, fire mitigation and recovery, and other related topics.

Who are the presenters at the Land Management Symposium?

Among the presenters are:

  • A certified professional soil scientist with the Soil Science Society of America who will talk about the importance of healing the soil in public and private lands. Wildfires and misuse of land can strip the soil of the nutrients that allow flora to thrive.
  • A geoscientist who will talk about the timing and impacts of erosion in a wet meadow system.
  • A fire specialist from New Mexico State University will talk about how fire suppression can create unique ecological conditions and management challenges. Philmont’s programs have been affected by wildfires several times in the last few years.
  • A representative from the Bureau of Land Management will discuss how to create resilient landscapes that can better serve as nature’s infrastructure.

“Everyone knows that Philmont is a Scout program with youth leadership at the core, but not many people know about all the conservation work that we do, not only at Philmont, but also at the other high-adventure bases, and across the BSA properties in the local councils,” says Degas Wright, chair of the Philmont Ranch Committee. “So, this is not a BSA event. We want this to be a national program, if not someday a global program.”

Photo of Philmont's Tooth of Time
Photo by Dominic Baima

A history of conservation at Philmont

Kenneke, who has been involved in Scouting mostly nonstop since he was a Cub Scout, says the Philmont Training Center’s facilities — along with the gorgeous scenery — make the property the perfect place to host such an event.

“We have the recreational component — backpacking and mountain biking and so on — but we are also an operating livestock operation,” Kenneke says. “We’ve been able to over the years utilize the landscape for all of those stakeholders and do it pretty successfully.

“So, being able to bring together these different groups to one place and get them out into the field and illustrate how we’re able to do that lends itself to the success of multiuse landscapes across the country.”

For decades, every single crew that has come to Philmont Scout Ranch for a backpacking trek has also completed some form of conservation project. That tradition is just another reason Philmont is the ideal site for a symposium like this one.

Kenneke and Wright both say they hope this year’s symposium is the first of many.

“We’re saying that Philmont could be the laboratory for the country in the conservation space,” says Wright. “We are a place where people have put a lot of value and relevancy around what we’re doing in the field of conservation.”


About Aaron Derr 436 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.