Shale Play Produces a Financial Boon for Boy Scouts, Game & Fish Commission

by George Waldon  on Monday, Sep. 10, 2012 12:00 am  

John Carman, Scout executive for the Quapaw Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America: Shale Play revenue has "really been a godsend for us." (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

The roster of royalty beneficiaries in the Fayetteville Shale Play is dominated by individuals. But among the surprise winners in the natural resources sweepstakes are the Quapaw Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.

The local BSA group and the state agency have collected checks from natural gas concerns totaling more than $40 million during the last five years.

The Quapaw Area Council owns the mineral rights on 1,800 acres in the heart of the gas-rich formation that stretches across north-central Arkansas. The holdings are part of its 3,200-acre Gus Blass Scout Reservation in northern Faulkner, southern Van Buren and western Conway counties.

During 2006-10, the Quapaw Area Council received more than $5.8 million from gas production on its property from Seeco Inc., a subsidiary of Southwestern Energy Co. of Houston.

Even with the precipitous drop in natural gas prices, wells drilled by the Texas firm have provided a nice stream of revenue for the largest Boy Scouts group in Arkansas. In the last three months, royalty checks have totaled $45,900 in June, $31,500 in July and $41,400 in August.

"Our financial needs have grown dramatically," said John Carman, Scout executive for the Quapaw Area Council. "It's really been a godsend for us."

Even at 12.5 percent, the state minimum royalty rate, the gas money presented a windfall that allowed the council to upgrade its facilities at Camp Rockefeller, 3 miles west of Damascus, and improve the road network on the higher-used areas of the Gus Blass Reservation.

The list includes new standing seam metal roofs for all camp buildings, concrete pads to accommodate more than 200 tents and permanent frames, a refurbished kitchen for the dining hall and a new climbing tower. A backhoe and tractor with a bush hog highlight a list of new maintenance equipment.

"It has provided us with a whole lot of opportunities," said Terry Sharp, finance director for the Quapaw Area Council.

The QAC, which has grown to cover 39 counties in central and northeast Arkansas, is touted as one of the most successful BSA councils in the nation. Camp Rockefeller has hosted an ever-increasing number of youth at its summer camp program.

Four one-week sessions of summer camp attracted 842 Scouts in 2009 and 1,178 in 2010. The program was expanded to five weeks in 2011 (1,276) and 2012 (1,525). Six weeks in June and July are planned for 2013.

Until recently, gas royalties were divided equally among three budgeting allocations: annual operating expenses, camp construction/repair projects and endowment fund.



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