The Boy Scouts of America has mortgaged one of the most spectacular properties it owns, the vast Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, to help secure a line of credit as the financially strapped organization faces a growing wave of new sex-abuse lawsuits.
The BSA said last week that it has no plans to sell the property, and that the land is being used as collateral to help meet financial needs that include rising insurance costs related to sex-abuse litigation.
However, the move dismayed a member of Philmont’s oversight committee, who says it violates agreements made when the land was donated in 1938. The BSA disputed his assertion.
Top BSA officials signed the document in March, but members of the Philmont Ranch Committee only recently learned of the development, according to committee member Mark Stinnett.
In a memo sent to his fellow members, Stinnett — a Colorado-based lawyer — decried the financial maneuver and the lack of consultation with the committee.
“I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am to be the one to break this news to you,” Stinnett wrote. “The first point of the Scout Law is ‘A Scout is trustworthy.’ I am distressed beyond words at learning that our leaders apparently have not been.”
“But I am even more distressed to learn that Waite Phillips’ magnificent gift has now been put at risk,” Stinnett added.
Phillips was a successful oilman who used some of his fortune to develop a huge ranch in northeastern New Mexico. In 1938, and again in 1941, he donated two large tracts of the ranch to the Boy Scouts.
Since the first Boy Scout camp opened there in 1939, over 1 million Scouts and adventurers have camped and hiked on the property, which now covers more than 140,000 acres. One of its trails leads to the 12,441-foot summit of Baldy Mountain.