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With girls to join, Scouts to drop 'Boy' from name in 2019

SALT LAKE CITY — When girls join the Boy Scouts next year, the word "boy" will drop from the program's title.

Scouts BSA will be the new name for the Scouting program for 11- to 17-year-olds. The name change will be effective Feb. 1, when girls can join Scout troops for the first time, according to an announcement released Wednesday by the Boy Scouts of America.

"What they're doing is changing the name of the Boy Scout program, the program for 11- to 17-year-olds," said Allen Endicott, scout executive of the Trapper Trails Council, which has 52,000 Scouts in northern Utah, southeastern Idaho and southwestern Wyoming. "The name of the organization isn't changing. It'll still be the Boy Scouts of America."

Reaction to the name change was mixed on Wednesday.

"I like 'Scouts BSA,'" said Darwin Cook of Tooele, a Utah Scouting executive whose daughter joined a Lutheran Cub Scout den this year in Taylorsville — a 50-minute drive. "I was hoping they'd come up with a name that maintained the meaning and tradition of the Scouting program but also allowed girls to just be Scouts."

BSA heralded the name change and simultaneously launched a Cub Scout recruiting drive aimed at girls and boys called "Scout Me In." More than 3,500 girls already are participating in early adopter Cub Scout packs for children ages 7 to 10. The full launch for girls in Cub Scouts is scheduled for June 11.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had been BSA's largest faith-based chartering organization before dropping Scouting from its Young Men program for 14- to 18-year-olds on Jan. 1, had no comment, a spokesman said.

Each chartering organization can choose whether it will add girls to its troops or packs, Endicott said.

The LDS Church is not going to add girls to its troops because it already has a strong, church-sponsored Young Women organization, said Mark Griffin, president of the BSA's Great Salt Lake Council in central Utah. The council is home to 65,000 Scouts, 45,000 of whom are LDS.

"So I don't think it'll be as widespread in our council," Griffin said.

He didn't consider the name change a big deal because it does nothing new to change the organization.

"It will take me a while to get used to it," he said, though he grew up referring to Boy Scouts as Scouting because as a teenager he didn't like being called a boy.

The Girl Scouts of America declined to comment on growing tension between the two groups as BSA opens its programs to girls to combat membership losses. The Girl Scouts have 1.76 million girls, down from just over 2 million in 2014, according to the Associated Press.

But the numbers are up in Utah for a second consecutive year, to more than 8,000, according to Janet Frasier, CEO of Girl Scouts of Utah. She attributes the increase to improved training for adult leaders that is more effectively connecting them to neighborhood troops.

"We turn them into strong leaders who are confident in helping girls learn to lead, which is different from planning a fun, exciting event for girls." Frasier said. "The way women work and organize their day has really changed, so the way we train them as young women needs to change, too."

BSA is also dealing with declining numbers nationally. Scouting's numbers peaked at 4 million and now are about 2.3 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013.

Endicott said numbers dipped slightly in the Trapper Trails Council over the past year. The LDS Church's decision contributed to some of that decrease, he said, but many LDS congregations also continued to charter their Scout troops for 2018.

"They have youth still pursuing their Eagle Scout or who still enjoy being in the program," he said.

Chief Scout executive Mike Surbaugh told the AP the name change was meant to evoke the past but be inviting to both young men and young women.

"As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in Scouting in every way possible," he said.

Boys and girls will not be in mixed-gender packs in Cub Scouts nor in mixed-gender troops in Scouts BSA.

Groups that charter Cub Scouts either can have separate packs for boys and girls or have a single pack with boys in one den and girls in their own den, Endicott said.

Cook's daughter, Miriam, 11, is one of eight girls in her Cub Scout den at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church. She worked Wednesday night to finish her final requirement for her Webelos rank.

"Some families choose baseball, basketball or softball," said Cook, chairman of Deseret Peak District in BSA's Great Salt Lake Council. "We've chosen Scouting."

When Miriam started to mimick her older brother as he went through Scouts, Cook decided she could get as much out of it as he did.

"Someday, our national leaders will include more women, and this is a great program to train them in values and leadership skills for those positions," he said.