Mr. BOREN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge passage of H.R. 473, the HALE Scouts Act. This bill grants the U.S. Forest Service the authority to sell roughly 140 acres of land to the Indian Nation's Council of Boy Scouts. The land for conveyance is adjacent to the Scouts' summer camp, Camp Tom Hale, located in Talihina, Oklahoma.
The Indian Nation's Council of Boy Scouts is a nonprofit organization, providing educational programs for boys and young adults to build character, to train in the responsibilities of citizenship, and to develop personal fitness.
Camp Tom Hale first opened in June 1930 to serve Boy Scouts in McAlester, Oklahoma. It was originally located in what is now Robbers Cave State Park near Wilburton, Oklahoma. In 1963, the Boy Scout Council in McAlester worked with the State of Oklahoma and the U.S. Forest Service to exchange the camp at Robbers Cave for 480 acres of wilderness area in the Ouachita National Forest. This ``new'' Camp Hale has continued as a summer adventure camp, serving thousands of Scouts during the intervening 41 years.
In 1997, the council board developed a strategic plan for a $3.5 million expansion and renovation of the camp. Since then, the council has spent in excess of $1 million continually updating and expanding facilities to meet the needs of scouts. As a result, a renewed emphasis on wilderness and outdoors has flourished, with over 6,000 scouts and leaders from a five-State area attending weekly sessions offered in June and July and enjoying the beautiful Ouachita Forest.
Attendance has now exceeded the maximum number of available campsites and program areas, which is causing Camp Hale to begin turning away hundreds of scouts each summer. It is now critical for camp growth that the boundaries be extended to include more area for camping and additional program and training services.
Successful completion of this objective will allow the Boy Scouts to continue the expansion of outdoor and leadership training for thousands of youths living in the central Southwest and bring additional usage and enjoyment of the Ouachita Forest for more families.
I want to emphasize that the Boy Scouts will pay fair market value, as was mentioned before, for this land, so that this bill will actually bring money to the U.S. Government.
It is for the benefit of these thousands of young men across a five-State area that I proudly sponsored this measure. I greatly appreciate the House's consideration of the bill and would like to urge my colleagues to support this bill, this legislation. I can think of no greater thing that we can do than to invest in our young people. And how can you be against the Boy Scouts?