Scouting Forums

Conservation Service Hours Official Definition?

One of the requirements for advancement for Life Rank is to have at least six service hours that are preapproved by the scoutmaster - three of which are conservation. Is there a clear definition on what is to be counted as these hours, especially the conservation hours? I’m looking for something official from BSA.

Example: I have one scout who wants to advance to Life and needs to have the conservation hours. He wants to count for his hours the time that he is going to spend with his grandfather cutting down diseased trees in his yard and clearing the branches away that have fallen into the neighbors yard, etc. This really does not sound like conservation hours to me. I am the scoutmaster. But I would like to have some sort of official definition to back me up. Otherwise it’s conceivable that any type of yard work can be counted as conservation hours. I see it more as a community project or a good deed project and not a family/home project.

You input is appreciated. Thanks.

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I think the “Scoutmaster approved” can give you the freedom - I would at the same time talk with PLC about setting something you feel is more conservation based up though


I think it meets the smell test for a conservation activity. I don’t know if I would consider doing yard work for a family member a service activity, though…


As far as I know, there is no official definition from the BSA. There are some conservation service project ideas at the following link:

I wouldn’t be worried about whether the proposed project is “conservation”: perhaps there’s a “better” project, but cutting down diseased trees seems like a classic example; it’s conservation by allowing new vegetation to grow in the cleared area, perhaps preventing erosion; and perhaps (depending on the disease) helping stop the spread of disease.

In fact, it sounds similar to this item in the BSA page “Conservation Good Turn”:

Help thin and prune woodlands in a managed tree improvement project.

The part I’d be worried about is it being for his own grandfather. Generally, service needs to be for someone else, not the Scout’s own family, and not to fulfill some otherwise-existing obligation; certainly not the Scout’s own household. But is the Scout’s grandfather a notable part of the community; is his house a registered historical landmark? or is said neighbor responsible to clean up the tree branches, and unable to do so, such that the proposed project is an act of charity toward him?

My oldest son counted as “conservation” service toward his Life rank some time with a community gardening organization, preparing seedlings for planting. During that time, we also attended a district camporee where part of the time was scheduled for service; he and his brother were assigned to a group that pulled weeds in a certain part of the city park where we were camping; I would have counted those hours as “conservation” as well.

I know of a troop that meets near my sons’ schools that requires scouts to fill out a one-page form proposing all service and submit it to the Scoutmaster for approval, before the service is performed. On the other hand, with my own sons, I’ve usually (not always) sent their scoutmaster (or the committee chair, if he’s absent) e-mail briefly describing any proposed service, and never had a project disapproved. The important thing is probably to follow the intent of the Scout Oath and law, and be fair.


I appreciate all the responses. I think you hit the point with “obligation”. The service hours need to be for an organization in the community where the scout is going above and beyond and is not obligated to do it. Conservation related is a subset of that requirement.

Going forward, I’ll have to define it for the scouts and get the PLC to possibly approve some conservation related projects for the troop to do together so there is no guessing and it’s official.

BSA should really tie that together better in the rank requirements.

Thank you all!

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Personally, I would not go so far as to say that the service has to be done for an “organization”. For example, there might be some good service projects that could be done helping elderly neighbors.

However, you could say that you will not count family chores / obligations as service hours. (But they might be able to include those as part of the Family Life merit badge requirements).

Here are some more examples of conservation service projects (under the Environmental Dimension of the Messengers of Peace award):

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I found this in the Scout Handbook in the section on the Outdoor Code (in the Outdoor Ethics section):

Be conservation-minded. I will learn about and practice good conservation of soil, waters, forests, minerals, grasslands, wildlife, and energy. I will urge others to do the same. Keep conservation in mind all the time, and you will make decisions that are good for the environment. Sharing information is one of the best ways to learn, so discuss with your fellow Scouts how conservation guides your decisions.

Removing diseased trees does sound like a form of conservation. In this particular case, the issue seems to be whether or not this is volunteer service or more of a family obligation.


My inclination is to find out more about helping his grandfather take the trees down. Does his family usually help the grandfather with maintenance or is this a unique situation? If this is a unique situation then I would be inclined to allow it to count as conservation service.


This is just getting in to too many grey areas. He is helping a family member that he typically helps. It is not above and beyond as a “good turn” or community service.

If we can approve this for a scout, then why can’t we approve the scout doing yard cleanup for another family member or even at his own home? I have moderate to severe arthritis in my lower back and while my son regularly cuts the grass, helping to maintain our native plant and butterfly garden and the landscaping around the house would be above and beyond what he typically does. I could argue that a tree is diseased, the plants are diseased, things need to be rearranged pulled out & relandscaped to help with water drainage, etc. Therefore given the nature of what he would be doing we could say that was “conservation” and a “good turn”. In reality it is a family member and an obligation no matter how you look at it.

I was just hoping to find something clearly defined from the BSA.

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As Scoutmaster, you have the discretion to set your own policy on service projects (although you cannot add to or subtract from advancement requirements). I think you could reasonably set your policy to exclude a Scout’s family chores / duties.

The intent behind service projects is to serve others, so you could have a policy that would allow credit for a Scout who does chores for an elderly or disabled neighbor (this would be an example of a Scout helping the community, but not necessarily done for or as part of an organization).

Here are a couple articles I found at Scouting Magazine:

Ask the Expert: Can Scouts earn service hours outside of the troop setting?

Bryan on Scouting: Does helping fellow Scouts count for service requirements?

You could also define “conservation-related” to exclude routine yard maintenance. The BSA does not define “conservation-related”, but there is a loose description of conservation in the Scout Handbook (in the Outdoor Ethics: Outdoor Code section) . Basically, if it helps conserve the environment in some way, then it can probably count as a conservation-related service project. Here are some BSA examples of conservation service projects (from above posts):

Conservation Good Turn Project Ideas (for Scouts BSA, Venturing and Sea Scouts)

Messengers of Peace Service Project Ideas: Environmental Dimension

A couple more ideas I did not see listed:

  • Installing bat houses
  • Installing bee houses

Good Turns can be big or small (Scout Handbook). They do not necessarily have to be “above and beyond”. Some specific Good Turns might qualify as service projects, others might not.


LOL - it is funny how quick an SPL can start pitching Conservation ideas when he is working on Life. Just a recent observation


I had the same question for the Conservation NOA. I found The Conservation Handbook from BSA to be helpful, esp. the section on sample conservation projects. For example, mentions outdoor painting of playground equipment. We had scouts with lots of outdoor painting service work for public facilities so we included all those hours as conservation oriented.!-622557.html?gclid=Cj0KCQjwjOrtBRCcARIsAEq4rW4hF2G5B_mTC82mV-y7mv8JgnsNUC1N0z2NNjCK6YpNyM3Q5vQpLdgaAraOEALw_wcB

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Conservation,just what i means. Clean a community park, a community vacant lot, Street Garbage , cutting vines from the trees in the community. In my County there is non profit Vine Cutting Club. They cut and clean the vines from trees in Public parks and Parkways. My scouts do the three Conservation hours with Vine Cutters Club. The other three hour they do food drives, work at the food Pantry, or any community service

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There appears to be two issues related to this discussion topic:

  • What is a good turn?
  • What is a conservation good turn?

What is a good turn?

In the Voice of Scouting article “Scouting and How Good Turns Have Blessed America - National BSA Good Turns”, By Darryl Alder, Apr 28, 2017, Mr, Alder quotes BSA’s first Chief Scout Executive, James E. West, who in 1928, believed that there was a

difference between normal household and other chores, and actual Good Turns

I do not know what the definition of a scouting good-turn was in 1928.

Mr. Alder quotes Baden-Powell of Gilwell, the founder of the Scouting movement, who refers good turns as being different from service to the community.

By encouraging, in a healthy, cheery, and not in a sanctimonious and looking-for-reward spirit, your Scouts to do good turns as a first step, and to do service for the community as a development, you can do more for them even than by encouraging their proficiency or their discipline or their knowledge, because you are teaching them not how to get a living so much as how to live.

“Good Turn” Redefined?

I think BSA redefined what a “good turn” is to promote community service…

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