Idaho scout leaders see donor backlash

Scout program leaders in North Idaho are pleading constituents not to cut off support for the Boy Scouts out of opposition to the Camp Easton land swap.

Officials with the Old Mission District, which oversees scouting programs in Kootenai, Shoshone and Benewah counties, say they have been contacted by a high number of volunteers and financial donors threatening to sever ties with the district if the proposed exchange goes through.

"Some of our biggest contributors are saying, 'We're not going to be associated with scouting anymore,'" said district Chairman Ladd Livingston.

Some have made significant donations to fund Camp Easton infrastructure, Livingston explained, with the understanding that the improvements would be used at that location permanently.

"They've discovered that might not be the case, and they're not happy," he said.

District Vice Chair Carl Eaton added that some contributors who have given $10,000 or more have informed the district leadership that now instead of giving to the district, they will donate to interests committed to halting the land swap.

Some volunteers have said they won't continue to participate in district scouting activities, said Mike Holehan, also district vice-chair.

"Some have approached us at events, some call us at home," Holehan said.

What they don't understand, Eaton said, is the Old Mission District does not own Camp Easton nor controls the details of the land exchange.

He stressed that the Spokane-based Inland Northwest Council owns the property and is at the helm of negotiations on the land swap.

"It's all over our heads," Eaton said.

The district is simply tasked with organizing activities for the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Venture Scouts in the area, Eaton said. That includes camping trips and events like the recent merit badge college, Klondike Derby and Mountain Man Rendezvous.

That's also what the district's funding goes toward, Eaton said. So cutting funding and volunteer hours for the district only impacts the scouts' activities.

"It's just eliminating programs," Eaton said. "We need people to understand that there's a disconnect between what's happening with Camp Easton and what goes on with the Old Mission District."

The cost per scout is about $175 in the district, he said.

There are 130 Boy Scout troops in the area, though the district office staff didn't know offhand how many youth participate in all the programs.

Eaton's biggest concern, he said, is that if the district can't show it has community support, the INC can dissolve the district and merge it with the one in Spokane.

"Then Spokane dictates what's going to be done here, instead of local people," Eaton said. "If people want to give to the other cause (opposing the land swap), then fine, but don't take away from the boys."

He noted that even individual scout units participating in the annual Friends of Scouting fundraiser have been struggling to get their usual donations.

"We just want to get the message across that we aren't making the decision," Eaton said. "We just want to give the boys a good program."

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