Whispering Pines sale: Girl Scouts tell legal challengers to explain their case or stand down | Environment

A Girl Scouts chapter on Friday ramped up its legal fight against an advocacy group that’s suing the chapter to block the sale of a beloved camp in Tangipahoa Parish.

Girl Scouts Louisiana East asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit by Friends of the Longleaf Pines, a group of former girl scouts fighting the sale of Camp Whispering Pines mostly on environmental grounds, saying the suit lacks legal basis.

Though a state judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking the sale, the Girl Scouts argued Friday, Friends of the Longleaf Pines haven’t properly described in court filings why they’re entitled to disrupt the transaction.

Friends of the Longleaf Pines “entirely fails to identify the causes of action it attempts to bring against GSLE. But even interpreting plaintiff’s Petition liberally, the plaintiff either lacks standing or fails to state claims upon which relief can be granted, as outlined above,” lawyers for the chapter said in court filings.

A Girl Scouts chapter’s decision to sell a summer camp in Tangipahoa Parish led generations of girls in South Louisiana to lament the loss of …

If the court won’t dismiss the suit, the Girl Scouts chapter wants an order from a judge telling Friends of the Longleaf Pines to clarify the legal grounds of its lawsuit.

The latter group’s attorney did not return a phone message Friday.

Friends of the Longleaf Pines filed its lawsuit against Girl Scouts Louisiana East in a Jefferson Parish court several weeks ago. But after the Girl Scouts asked a federal judge to weigh the case, the two sides are sparring in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana about whether the case should remain there or return to Louisiana’s 24th Judicial District.

111921 Camp Whispering Pines Tangipahoa

The Girl Scouts’ lawyers, attorneys from Phelps Dunbar, are arguing that the allegations leveled in the suit fall under the federal Endangered Species Act and thus must be weighed by a federal judge. The group nonetheless denies those allegations.

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The 85-page suit paints a dire picture of what could befall endangered longleaf pine trees on the secluded property near Independence. It alleges that “clear-cutting,” or felling of pine forest aggressive enough to create large openings in heavily wooded areas, has been happening there since Hurricane Ida.

Longleaf pine forest once covered some 90 million acres of land across the Deep South. But two centuries of logging — big business in this pine-forested swath of South Louisiana known as the Florida Parishes — shrunk their footprint to less than 5 million acres.

A Girl Scouts chapter that wants to sell a cherished camp in Tangipahoa Parish went to federal court Friday and asked a judge to dissolve a st…

Friends of the Longleaf Pines also alleged that the Girl Scouts’ sale was unlawful because they violated the chapter’s bylaws by cutting rank-and-file members of the Girl Scout community out of the sale process.

The Girl Scouts chose a buyer for the property in September but have not disclosed who they are, saying only that a local landowner interested in conservation is buying the land.

They maintain that no clear-cutting of longleaf pine forest is underway on the property. Both the buyer and the Girl Scouts agreed to keep up “existing forestry management practices,” the chapter said in court documents, including replanting trees that were torn from the ground by Ida’s winds, which wreaked havoc on communities along Louisiana’s Interstate 55 corridor.

A judge temporarily blocked the sale of a cherished Girl Scout camp in Tangipahoa Parish after an advocacy group alleged a local scout chapter…

Selling Camp Whispering Pines was a last resort, Girl Scouts Louisiana East officials said when the chapter announced its plans to sell the camp in July. The chapter had tried for years to muster around $1 million needed for repairs to the 600-acre property, but fell short.

“While GSLE acknowledges that the camp holds a sentimental place in the hearts of current and former Girl Scouts, the current condition of the camp poses a safety hazard, exposing GSLE to significant liability,” its lawyers wrote Friday. “The funds required to repair the property and make additional improvements needed to render it competitive with other camps in the area are cost prohibitive.”

James Finn writes for The Advocate as a Report For America corps member. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RJamesFinn.

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