At the age of 12 I made my first foray into the back country of Yellowstone National Park with my Boy Scout troop. By age 17, I was guiding Boy Scout troops into the Yellowstone back country as a member of the staff at Camp Loll, which is located about two miles south of the southern border of the park.

Throughout my adult life I have on various occasions hiked into the Yellowstone back country with Boy Scout groups. My oldest two sons have also guided troops on Yellowstone hikes as members of the Camp Loll staff. I have been looking forward to hiking to Union Falls with my #3 son’s troop this summer.

Now, thanks to a bureaucratic response to a Sierra Club lawsuit, my son and thousands of other young Americans may never get an opportunity to enjoy the back country of our nation’s premier national park.

Yellowstone National Park officials have worked closely with the Camp Loll staff for many years to train back country guides, provide marvelous back country experiences to thousands of young Boy Scouts, and help the Scouts minimize impact to this rare and delicate environment. The BSA has not only complied with all requirements, but has taken extra precautions to improve the back country and to minimize impact.

Despite this long and successful partnership between the BSA and the NPS, new rules were recently imposed that would essentially destroy Camp Loll’s back country hiking program. Under the rules, nonprofit group usage of the park’s back country now falls under the auspices of the park’s Concession Management Division (CMD).

With no warning or public input, the CMD has arbitrarily imposed severe limits on the number of Scouts that can hike to the destinations most popular to Camp Loll hikers. Under these rules, thousands of young Americans will be prohibited from experiencing the national heritage that has presumably been preserved for them (per the act that created the park service).

Delose Conner, director of Camp Loll, provides more details on this matter in his own blog post.

There are those that pose as friends of the environment that would turn our nation’s wilderness areas into private reserves for favored groups. In a day when many such groups complain that our youth do not get out into nature enough, some actively work to keep young Americans out of nature.

Our national parks belong to all Americans, not just those with an elitist mindset. It is wrong to prevent those that responsibly use and maintain the back country from enjoying its use. Fortunately, it’s not too late to prevent this tragedy. Timely letters and emails can remedy the problem in time for the upcoming summer season.

Letters should be sent to your congressional representative and your senators, to the superintendent of Yellowstone, and to the head of the park’s CMD. Delose provides addresses in his post. He also provides a copy of the letter he is sending in this post.

Were it not for my involvement in the BSA, I probably would never have ventured into the Yellowstone back country. I would never have experienced the natural wonders of Union Falls and Terraced Falls. I may never have learned proper conservation techniques. Countless others fall into this same category. Don’t let the elitists and the bureaucrats lock our youth out of areas that, as Americans, they have every right to enjoy.

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