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Some local Boy Scouts have been experiencing life on the beach this week, but they haven’t been relaxing in the sand.
Instead they’ve been helping with a conservation project to preserve sand dunes in Gulf Shores, Ala., and the creatures that live in them.
Troop 369 with Locust Grove Baptist Church in Elizabethtown left Monday to participate in a conservation project in Alabama, which a member of their church helped to start the effort.
The 17 Scouts have been helping Alabama Fish and Wildlife Service employees plant grasses on sand dunes near condominiums.
The dunes house the Alabama beach mouse, a federally endangered species.
The small, light-colored mice are a subspecies of old field mice that have become endangered after being hunted by domestic cats and having their habitat damaged by development, hurricanes, tropical storms and pedestrians.
The mice contribute to the ecosystem by collecting and distributing seeds, with uneaten seeds growing into plants that stabilize the dunes on which they depend. They also are an important food source for dune predators, such as snakes and owls.
Elizabethtown resident Robert Bush, who is the troop’s charter organization representative, has a condo in the area and noticed how much trouble residents were having with sand moving.
“It was constantly overtaking our boardwalks down by the beach,” he said.
Bush and Fish and Wildlife representatives learned about a federal grant available to replace or restore vegetation wiped out by hurricanes. He helped start the paperwork that got the area approved for the grant.
Then, he helped bring in labor to place plants purchased with federal money to make the sand dunes more secure and protect the beach mice’s habitat.
“I just thought it would be a great project for our Boy Scout groups,” he said. “They’ve been having a great time.”
Bush thought the work would earn service hours for the Scouts, show them protected animals on the coast and allow them to learn from fish and wildlife and soil conservation biologists.
“They’re all interested,” he said. “They love it.”
When not working, the boys have been sleeping in tents on the beach.
A few boys got a little wet when it rained Tuesday night, but Bush said the Scouts have been enjoying the beach camping experience.
“They’re having a great time,” he said.
After they return Saturday, the Scouts will qualify for Boy Scout World Conservation Awards.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.