Camp Robert Drake is a Boy Scout Camp in the heart of the Midwest that serves the units of Prairielands Council and scouts from units across the country. Just a short distance off the Oakwood exit of Interstate 74, Camp Drake is a wilderness gem of Central Illinois featuring great terrain and the beautiful Salt Fork River. The Camp boasts a rare climax forest of Walnut, Oak and Hickory. For 90 years this camp has stood as a testament to the Boy Scouts of America’s care and management of this impressive forest.
Recently, the local Prairielands Council decided to liquidate all trees in the forested areas of Camp. The contract was a no-bid open contract with one lumber company, Pike Lumber of Indiana. The plan calls for the aggressive removal of any commercially viable trees within Camp Drake, including trees in programming and camp sites. Over 1400 trees will be removed over the entire 160 acres of the wooded forest area within Camp Drake. The Camp Drake Forest is a legacy given to the current Council leadership by 90 years of Scout Executives, Executive Committees, Executive Boards and Camp Directors who chose to preserve the natural resources of Drake for future generations of scouts to benefit and enjoy.
The Prairielands Executive Committee has refused to allow anyone, including members of the Executive Board that have directly asked, to see a copy of the contract or any documentation executed by the Executive Committee. The Prairielands Council Executive Committee did not at any time solicit the input or involvement of the standing Prairielands Conservation Committee or the Prairielands Camping Committee. The Conservation Committee has formally asked for involvement in the planning and execution of the timber sale and has been formally rejected. Prairielands Executive Committee has failed to adequately communicate the specifics of the sale, which impact future camping plans and the unit’s financial deposits, to the units within Prairielands.
A standard competitive bid process was not followed. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division, standard practices of private timber sales involve the hiring of an independent forester to access the value of the trees and opening the sale process to at least 10 closed bids to maximize the returns for a timber sale. Scout Executive Jared White has stated that he personally chose Pike Lumber Company and allowed them to set the terms of the sale. Without the standard checks and balances of any large transaction between a Scout Executive and a vendor, there is no way to confirm any conflicts of interest with Pike Lumber Company are avoided. A transaction that involves over $250,000 should conform to standard blind bidding processes in any Council. The proposed wholesale liquidation of Camp Drake’s rare, commercially valuable trees should follow a transparent and traceable process involving many levels of scrutiny and governed by standard processes and procedures.
The Prairielands Council has repeatedly told the Executive Board and the Conservation Committee that the sale involves 221 trees. This is not true. The sale is for 1400+ trees. Either the Council was seriously misinformed by Pike Lumber as to how many trees are marked for sale or there was a deliberate attempt to manage the perception of the enormity of the sale and its impact on the Council, the Units within the council, and the scouting community at large.
Prairielands Scout Executive Committee is allowing itself to make a decision in private and without any checks and balances that involves large sums of monies and affects every stakeholder in our council and beyond. I believe that Prairielands has not put appropriate procedures in place or is not following these defined procedures in order to maintain appropriate levels of transparency, accountability and honesty to protect the future legacy of scouting within the council
I ask that local scouting community and the community at large help avoid this tragedy. You can register a complaint to the Scouting Office at 217-356-7291. You can contact the Scout Executive directly at [email protected]. You can also sign the petition to stop the logging of Camp Drake.
Joel Armas is an Eagle Scout and student at the University of Illinois. They are a member of Students for Environmental Concerns.