Did you know that time spent in the forest can provide skills to prepare you for life?
Updated: May 23, 2022
Meet Mike Huneke- Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 124 in Carney, MD
For Mike Huneke, Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation in Harford County is more than a Boy Scout camp; it’s the foundation for life lessons from the woods to the real world.
Huneke is a national program manager with the Fire and Aviation Program for the U.S. Forest Service and has a private consulting forestry business, but the Scouts and the forests of Broad Creek are his callings. As one of only 2,500 Distinguished Eagle Scouts in the entire country and a Scoutmaster Troop 124 in Carney, MD— it’s just in his blood. “Scouting is what got me into forestry,” the Scoutmaster says.
Having been in the Scouts since he was 11, and now affiliated with Boy Scouts of America for 40 years, Huneke points to the importance of the many merit badges offered at camp during the resident camping season, including a forestry merit badge. “Each one of those badges is an opportunity to explore a career,” says Huneke.
He is chair of the Boy Scouts, Baltimore Area Council Conservation Committee, which is charged with conserving the property’s natural resources and maintaining the conservation education program emphasis at the camp. This includes finding shovel-ready projects for Scouts when they come to camp needing to earn their service hours of conservation work. A lot of this work ends up being trail maintenance, controlling the invasive plants that are creeping from the forest edge over into the trail system, and a lot of sediment control related to the trails.
All of the work has to be consistent with the camp’s forest stewardship plan. As a certified forester, Huneke tries to encourage camps nationally to get a forest stewardship plan since every camp requires a conservation plan. He managed the Forest Stewardship Program for the U.S. Forest Service’s 20-state Northeastern Area for more than 10 years before transferring to Fire and Aviation Management, so it’s a perfect match.
Huneke also serves on two national committees with the Boy Scouts, as well as doing a lot of writing and development of training modules to help local councils understand how to manage their camps better. In Maryland, there are 5 Boy Scout camps, which are used by boys and girls in the Scouting program, but it’s Broad Creek that Huneke has a particular connection to.
“The camp is special,” he says. One of the largest privately-owned tracts of forestland in an increasingly developed Central Maryland, Broad Creek is a hub for forest interior dwelling species (FIDS) of birds and home to a pristine 60-acre old-growth forest of Eastern hemlock that was once home to the national Big Tree champion hemlock. “There are some magnificent trees in that area of the camp,” says Huneke.
Using conservation education as an opportunity to show and explore natural resources with youth, the Scoutmaster, camp staff and Scouts have worked with the MD Department of Agriculture to treat the hemlocks against the invasive insect pest, the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). “We had them doing the tree measurements and collecting the data and helping to carry the treatment tools. Every tree had to be measured,” Huneke adds. After the successful introduction of an emerging biocontrol, the Laricobius beetle, the hemlock stand is now being monitored and treatment hasn’t been required for the past several years.
“The purpose of the property is ultimately for the young people that pass through to have life-changing experiences where they develop the ideals of Scouting; things like character, citizenship, fitness, and leadership,” says Huneke. Activities like working in teams to collect data and being stewards of a native tree facing an invasive threat, or planting 5+ acres of hardwood tree seedlings and the intensive hands-on maintenance, are all working toward those life skill sets being instilled in the youth at Broad Creek.
Citing how Broad Creek was first opened for Scout camping in 1948, Huneke notes “the vision that they had to cobble that land together almost 75 years ago and set it aside for future generations was amazing. It’s our job to carry on that legacy so that future generations can benefit from that property.” He emphasizes how they’re “not making any more land,” so we have to take care and be better stewards of the precious land we have, especially amazing natural areas like Broad Creek.
With the help of future generations among the 27,000 that come through Broad Creek annually, Huneke is keeping plenty busy. His work has not gone unnoticed, having been honored with a Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Conservationist Award, only one of 60 recipients and only the 48th person since this award was launched in 1915 by Dr. William Hornaday. Mike says, “it’s an honor to be on that list with the likes of renowned scientist and father of wildlife ecology Aldo Leopold.”
“What I sought to do throughout my career was to bring my passion for Scouting and my passion for forestry together through conservation education and opportunities,” says Huneke. What the Distinguished Eagle Scout has done throughout his career is exactly that.
Pictured above Mike Huneke with Manny Fonseca- Deputy Scout Executive & COO BSA Baltimore Area Council
Photo Credit: EDWIN REMSBERG PHOTOGRAPHS
Project Support: RURAL MARYLAND COUNCIL
LINKS TO LEARN MORE:
Broad Creek, BSA
Eagle Scout on the Front Lines of Fight Against Western Wildfires
Boy Scouts of America
Maryland's Forests- Great for the Environment and the Economy
Why Join MFA
Mike Huneke and his son, Jacob, on a Philmont shakedown hike. Photo by Rick Garriques