The Closure of the Philmont Backcountry
Fellow BSA Colleagues,
Within the next hour, we will be announcing the closure of the Philmont backcountry for the 2018 summer season because of the unprecedented risk of fire. This closure applies only to Philmont’s backcountry programs. All other areas and programs at the Philmont Scout Ranch, including the Philmont Training Center, will remain open all summer.
Unfortunately, the extremely dry conditions at Philmont have continued unabated since June with fire danger in northern New Mexico currently classified as “extreme.” The fire danger has led to closure of most public lands near Philmont Scout Ranch. State and federal lands surrounding the Ranch have remained closed or have since been closed to public access due to the fire danger, including large areas that were closed in the last week.
We have been monitoring the situation since the Ute Park fire began earlier this summer. A few days ago, the Morris Creek fire was discovered in the southern portion of the Ranch. This was part of the area being considered for alternative trek routes that had to be re-routed due the damage sustained in the Ute Park Fire, which forced the cancellation of the first part of the season. Because of the Morris Creek fire, these alternate trek routes have now been eliminated. Additionally, two new fires have been reported in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado that highlight the continued high fire danger in the area, which is currently experiencing exceptional drought – the most severe classification associated with water shortages.
Over the next few days, the Philmont staff will be contacting the lead advisor or contingent leader of affected crews confirming the refund, offering a trek at Philmont for the 2020 season, and answering any questions. Once again, we will ask our Scouters to please wait and allow the Philmont team to contact crews to help make sure that Philmont phone lines remain open.
The Philmont ranger motto is “scramble – be flexible,” and our inspiring staff is living up to that spirit. Although they expected to be delivering backcountry adventures to Scouts and Scouters this summer, they have enthusiastically taken on the difficult work that needs to be done, ensuring that we will be ready to fully re-open next year. We are humbled and thankful for their willingness to roll up their sleeves, pitch in and meet the challenges we have faced; truly, they reflect the very best on Scouting and our nation’s youth.
As difficult as this situation has been for our Philmont family and for Scouts across our country, we have been truly inspired by the incredible perseverance and commitment shown by our staff, the resourcefulness displayed by displaced crews to find other summer adventures, and the understanding and good wishes from thousands of Scouts and Scouters from around the world.
Our entire Philmont family thanks you for your continued understanding, your support, and your cooperation.
Q: Does this mean that Philmont Scout Ranch will be closed this summer?
No, this closure applies only to Philmont’s backcountry programs. Philmont’s Camping Headquarters and Base Camp area, the Philmont Training Center, the new National Scouting Museum, the Chase Ranch, and the Kit Carson Museum at Rayado will remain open all summer. Training courses at the Philmont Training Center and the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE) will proceed as scheduled. This decision does not affect Philmont’s fall programs, including Autumn Adventure and fall PTC training conferences.
Q: Which programs are affected by the closure?
The following programs scheduled for this summer are cancelled: 7- and 12-day treks; and individual backcountry programs, including Rayado, ROCS, Trail Crew, STEM and Ranch Hands.
Q: Will refunds be issued to the affected crews?
Yes, refunds checks for all affected crews will be sent to the lead contact advisor on Monday, July 9, 2018.
Q: Will affected crews be offered high adventure opportunities elsewhere?
We will encourage crews to attend programs that still have capacity. For instance, while Northern Tier and Sea Base are at capacity right now, the Summit Bechtel Reserve is ready to help deliver a great adventure program this summer. Crew advisors and councils can call SBR directly at 304-465-2800.
Q: What will happen if our crew already paid for airfare?
Our National BSA leadership has been working with airlines to assist crews with refunds, changes, and credits. Please refer to the following contacts for support.
American Airlines 1-800-221-2255
Southwest Airlines 1-800-435-9792
Alaska Airlines 1-800-654-5669
Q: What is the financial impact of this closure?
Although we know there will be a significant impact, it is difficult for us to assess the entire financial impact at this moment. Even so, we know that this is the right decision because the safety of our youth participants, volunteers and staff is our priority.
Q: What will be the impact to the seasonal staff?
Philmont seasonal staff will be given the opportunity to stay and continue to work on projects at Philmont, but they can also choose to go home if they prefer.