Girl Scout Camp Whispering Pines sale is put on hold and the Girl Scouts are under pressure to stop what they are doing, clear cutting.

A judge temporarily blocked the sale of a cherished Girl Scout camp in Tangipahoa Parish after an advocacy group alleged a local scout chapter violated its own bylaws by placing the camp on the market and subsequently allowed clear-cutting of endangered pine forest on the property. Judge Ellen Kovach in the 24th Judicial District Court issued a temporary restraining order barring Girl Scouts Louisiana East from “alienating, encumbering, wasting, disposing and/or selling Camp Whispering Pines” pending a hearing set for next week in Jefferson Parish, court records show. Kovach’s order, issued last Thursday, also tells the scout chapter to stop “further forestry practices of ‘clear cutting and stump removal’ as is currently be (sic) practiced at Camp Whispering Pines.”

My only experience with scout camps is with the Boy Scouts and we never sold them. This is a new process to me!

The order came in response to a suit filed by Friends of the Longleaf Pines, a group of former scouts angry over how Girl Scouts Louisiana East organized the sale of the secluded, 600-acre camp located an hour’s drive east of Baton Rouge. Chapter leaders chose a buyer for the camp in September, but entered a non-disclosure agreement with the purchaser and haven’t revealed any other parties in the transaction. Girl Scouts Louisiana East retained Baton Rouge law firm Phelps Dunbar to represent them in the case. Attorney Chris Ralston declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday, citing the firm’s policy for pending litigation. Tangipahoa Parish land records show a final sale of the property on LA-1054 has not yet been recorded.

I fully understand the reasons that are put for not selling the camp as I have fond memories of both the camp I attended in Turkey and the one my son attended in Virginia.

Along with special memories of summers spent at the camp, Friends of the Longleaf Pines’ worries over the sale stem from what could happen to hundreds of acres of endangered longleaf pine trees which grow there. Longleaf forests offer ideal habitats for several endangered animal species, according to conservation experts who filed affidavits supporting the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that some of that forest has already been cut down — and that Girl Scouts Louisiana East violated its organization’s own rules by keeping certain details about the sale under wraps. Girl Scouts Louisiana East “stonewalled” rank-and-file scouts during its process for voting to sell Camp Whispering Pines and liquidate its assets, the suit says. The organization’s board violated Louisiana law, it says, by ignoring records requests from Friends of the Longleaf Pines, and by voting on whether to liquidate the camp’s assets without including people in the organization outside of the board of directors.

It would seem that regarding conservation, the actions of the owners is not in that spirit.

Clear-cutting is underway on the property and will have long-term effects on habitats there, said Susan Carr, an expert in wildlife ecology and conservation, in an affidavit mentioned in the lawsuit. “It is my belief that the intensive land clearing recently performed following Hurricane Ida at Camp Whispering Pines is being conducted in such a manner as to cause an adverse impact on the natural and ecological features present there,” Carr said in the affidavit. That activity “will cause a very high degree of damage to the longleaf ecosystem, undoing decades of careful stewardship and management and adversely affected (sic) the habitat of several protected species known to be present at Camp Whispering Pines,” Carr continued. Carlo Bruno, a member of the Tangipahoa Parish Council whose Independence-area district encompasses the camp property, during the council’s Oct. 25 meeting tried to assuage fears that longleaf pine trees at the site were being clear-cut — meaning timber cutting aggressive enough to open up wide clearings in thickly-forested areas. Cutting happening the property is routine clearing of brush that Hurricane Ida left strewn around the land; it’s not clear-cutting of the sort alleged in the lawsuit, Bruno said.

The other question is who is the buyer and what are their intentions with the land.

In an interview, he declined to identify the buyer. Instead, Bruno echoed the scouts’ earlier descriptions of a private landowner with an interest in preserving local landscapes. Pressed about who has been in possession of the land in recent weeks, Bruno would not say. “I can’t tell you if it’s the new landowner or is the Girl Scouts themselves,” he said. “But there is somebody out there removing fallen trees.”

I guess with these questions the judge is right to hold up the sale for answers. Not good images for the girls scouts though!

Camp Whispering Pines sale on hold