Two area Boy Scout councils are merging into one in a bid to keep the venerable organization viable after thousands of youths from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints left the Boy Scouts of America in 2018.
The merger of the Casper, Wyo-based Greater Wyoming Council with the Longs Peak Council, headquartered in Greeley, will take effect May 1, according to a news release from the Boy Scouts last week.
The merger of the two councils, “will serve to align efforts and strengthen their mission of providing the area’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based training,” the new release states.
The local Scouting community will determine the permanent name of the new entity, but the combined council will temporarily operate as the Greater Wyoming-Longs Peak Council, the news release stated.
“Our priority is to provide the best Scouting program possible for youth across northern Colorado, Wyoming and western Nebraska, and we can better accomplish this by combining our resources and efforts,” said John L. Coleman., Jr., scout executive and CEO of the Longs Peak Council, in the news release. Coleman will assume the role of Scout Executive and CEO for the combined entity.
The decision to consolidate came after key volunteer leaders from both councils began meeting in December 2020, to discuss ways to make local Scouting programs more efficient and sustainable, the new release states.
The 2018 departure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, has prompted an overall decline in membership in scouting, said Kelly Moll, spokesperson for the Longs Peak Council.
The LDS Church pulled out more than 400,000 young members from the Boy Scouts of America and began its own youth initiative in 2020. The move was prompted by the Boy Scouts opening its doors to gay youths and adult volunteers as well as girls and transgender youths, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
“The reality there is we didn’t really leave them; they kind of left us,” M. Russell Ballard, a high ranking member of the LDS Church told the Tribune in 2019. “The direction they were going was not consistent with what we feel our youth need to have … to survive in the world that lies ahead for them.”
The LDS departure led to an almost 18% drop in Boy Scout youth membership, according to The Columbian newspaper.
Despite the setbacks, the Boy Scouts of America has seen a renewed interest in programs among families that include both boys and girls, Moll said in an email. “Membership among girls and young women in both Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA has grown consistently each year since the programs became available to them in 2018 and 2019 respectively,” she said.