BINGHAMTON, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – The Boy Scouts of America is seeing its first significant increase in membership since 1999.

The boy scouts have seen a 5% increase in nationally, totaling over 77,000 new members, and locally, the Baden-Powell Council’s cub scout program has grown over 12%.

The Baden Powell Council oversees the scouting programs in Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Cortland and Tompkins and Susquehanna counties.

The scout executive, Matthew Bull, attributes the growth to the organization’s efforts to modernize its programs, and emphasize diversity and inclusion.

He also says that the pandemic made people realize how important the outdoors are.

“Even here in New York State, the safest thing we could do is go outside and go for a hike. I think a lot of people got reintroduced to the outdoors, and were looking for the experts to teach them how to interact in a safe and responsible way. And so, scouting is a natural fit for that.”

Bull says that nationally, boy scouts have seen an annual decline since 1970.

Bull says that another factor to the recent growth is because the boy scouts opened the doors so that anyone, regardless of gender, can become a member.

He says that the most popular merit badge as of late has been the Citizenship in Society Badge, which requires merit badge counselors to lead discussions focused around DEI.