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Philbreak and its Impact on Philmont Scout Ranch

John Hutchinson     September 22, 2020     OA Today

Three Arrowmen cleaning up fallen trees

Every summer, thousands of Scouts and Scouters travel to Philmont Scout Ranch for a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore the backcountry. But Philmont's vast landscape is not one to be easily maintained. In order to keep the grounds in pristine condition, the Order of the Arrow and the Philmont Staff Association sponsor an “alternative spring break” known as Philbreak.

Philbreak is a week-long series of conservation efforts throughout the grounds of Philmont. This year the event was held in March with the focus being on projects designed to minimize the impact that large fires would have on the landscape of Philmont through timber thinning efforts. Philbreak 2020 participants worked with the Philmont Conservation Department to create “slash piles,” which helped to remove significant amounts of fuel from the area.

Philbreak was not just a week of service work. Each evening was spent through a wide variety of fellowship activities, ranging from movie nights to tours of buildings like the Villa Philmonte or the National Scouting Museum. These nightly fellowships allowed for participants to learn more about their fellow members and create friendships with Arrowmen who may live hundreds of miles away. The diverse group of participants, both in age and background, allowed for amazing teamwork on the trail and for brilliant ideas for Arrowmen to use to improve their own home lodges.

The projects completed by the Philbreak participants had a large impact on Philmont and will help to protect the landscape for generations to come. But, Philbreak also had a great effect upon the participants who attended.

Jonathan G., an Arrowman from Onondaga Lodge stated, “Philbreak provided me with an experience that invigorated my passion for conservation. It was a very enriching experience in contrast with sitting at home playing video games.”

Evan D., an Arrowman from Tindeuchen Lodge, responded with “It was a fun trip that was affordable and helped to preserve nature. It wasn’t a leadership opportunity, nor a skill development seminar, but a chance to provide cheerful service.”

On the last day of the program, the group went on a hike throughout the backcountry. This journey took them to Window Rock, where they were able to see the immense damage that previous fires have caused to the Philmont’s picturesque landscape.

Philbreak 2021 is currently TBA and all of the information will be available on the Philmont website once announced. Registration, like all other OA activities at a High Adventure Base, will be handled using NOAERS.