CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the first time in its more than 100 year history, the Boy Scouts of America will start expanding its programs to include girls, from Cub Scout all the way up to Eagle Scout levels, in 2018.

In response, those with the Girl Scouts are defending the Scouting opportunities the organization is already offering to girls of all ages.

“The Boy Scouts have been talking about that for a couple of months, so I wasn’t really surprised,” said Beth Casey, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond which includes 8,100 Girl Scouts from 61 counties in Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and much of West Virginia.

The decision from the Boy Scouts, she said, “Just provides us the opportunity to tell our Girl Scout story and make sure that people realize the depth and breadth of what we do.”

Casey’s comments to MetroNews Thursday echoed a statement from Girl Scouts USA:

“The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today — and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success,” a statement read.

Michael Surbaugh, chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America, called the expansion decision “true to the BSA’s mission and core values.”

“The values of Scouting – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example – are important for both young men and women,” Surbaugh said in Wednesday’s announcement.

The full inclusion of girls is the latest step taken within the BSA to evolve amid declining membership which the Girl Scouts organization has also experienced.

In 2016, the Boy Scouts reported 2.3 million youth members which was a decline from 2.8 million in 2012 and a big drop from the 1972 peak of 6.5 million members.

The BSA ended the ban on openly gay Scouts in 2013 and then in 2015 lifted a ban on openly gay troop leaders. Earlier this year, the organization announced the acceptance of transgender Scouts.

Up to now, girls have been allowed to participate in some limited Boy Scout programs, the Explorer and Venturing programs, but not Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts.

Starting in 2018, BSA officials said families could choose to sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts.

Existing Cub Scout packs have the option of establishing a new girl pack, a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain all-boy packs. All packs will be single gender.

With the latest changes, a path to the rank of Eagle Scout will be available to older girls by 2019 for the first time.

Casey said the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award, earned by Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts, is comparable.

“Our highest award has changed names in its hundred year history, so we don’t have the name recognition that we should and we need to do a better job of talking about our Gold Award Girl Scouts and telling their stories to the world,” she said.

Casey comes from a big Scouting family.

Her husband is a Boy Scout leader. With their son and daughter, “We’re heavily involved in both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and I know the strengths of what each organization does,” Casey said.

“I know that we’re best served to provide an amazing program for girls.”

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