BSA Wilderness Use Policy

For the purposes of this policy, all privately or publicly owned backcountry and designated wildernesses are to be considered "wilderness." The Outdoor Code of the Boy Scouts of America applies to outdoor behavior generally, but for treks into wilderness, Leave No Trace camping methods must be used. Within the outdoor program of the Boy Scouts of America, there are many different camping-skill levels. Camping practices that are appropriate for day outings, long-term Scout camp, or short-term unit camping do not apply to wilderness areas. Wherever they go, Scouts and Venturers must adopt attitudes and patterns of behavior that respect the rights of others, including future generations, to enjoy the outdoors.

In wildernesses, it is crucial to minimize our impact on particularly fragile ecosystems such as mountains, lakes, streams, deserts, and seashores. Since our recreational use varies from one season of the year to the next, we must adjust to these changing conditions as well, to avoid damaging the environment.

The Boy Scouts of America emphasizes these practices for all troops, crews, and ships planning to use the wilderness:

  • Contact the landowner or land-managing agency (Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state agency, private landowner, etc.) well in advance of the outing to learn the regulations for that area and to obtain required permits and current maps.
  • Always obtain a tour permit, available through local council service centers. Meet all conditions specified and carry the permit on the trip.
  • Participate in Leave No Trace training for adult leaders, or be proficient and experienced in the leadership and skills required for treks into the wilderness.
  • Match the ruggedness of high-adventure experiences to the skills, physical ability, and maturity of those taking part. Save more rugged treks for older youth members who are more proficient and experienced in outdoor skills.
  • For your group, conduct pretrip training that stresses proper wilderness behavior, rules, and skills for all of the conditions that may be encountered.
  • Use backpacking stoves, particularly where the fuel supply is limited or open fires are restricted. An adult knowledgeable in the use of the stove(s) must supervise. If a fire is necessary, keep it as small as possible and use established fire lays where available in safe areas. After use, erase all signs.
  • Emphasize the need for minimizing impact on the land through proper camping practices, and for preserving the solitude and quiet of remote areas. Camp at low-use areas; avoid popular sites that show signs of heavy use.
  • Leave dogs, radios, and cassette or CD players at home.
  • Use plastic (not metal or glass) food containers that are lightweight and reusable. Carry out unburnable trash of your own and any left by others.
  • Dig catholes for latrines and locate them at least 200 feet from any source of natural water.
  • Wash clothes, dishes, and bodies at least 200 feet from any source of natural water.
  • Where a choice is available, select equipment in earth-tone colors that blend with natural surroundings.
  • Look at and photograph; never pick or collect.
  • Follow trail switchbacks and stay on established trails.
  • Treat wildlife with respect and take precautions to avoid dangerous encounters with wildlife. Leave snakes, bears, ground squirrels, and other wildlife alone.
  • On a canoeing trip, carry canoes into the foliage on shore so they will not be visible to other outdoor users.
  • Respect the quest of others to enjoy the solitude and silence of the backcountry.
  • Demonstrate respect by taking care of the outdoors. Land stewardship is everyone's responsibility. Do your part to leave wild America for future generations.

Information provided by: Mike Philbrook, Skipper, Sea Scout Ship 1001, San Diego, CA

Page updated on: November 28, 2017

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