Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a mixed gender pack, or remain an all-boy pack.
"The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls", officials said in a press release on Wednesday.
By 2019, some girls will be able to reach the organization's highest rank of Eagle Scout, the organization said.
"The values of Scouting - trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, courageous and reverent, for example - are important for both young men and women", Michael Surbaugh, the Boy Scouts' chief scout executive, said in a release.
The organization says it will start allowing girls to join the Cub Scouts, while also creating a special scouting program for girls who are too old to join the Cub Scouts. (Indeed, girls are already allowed in some Boy Scouts programs, just not the traditional ones most people are familiar with.) On a practical note, it means parents will no longer be forced to drive their kids to separate boy scout and girl scout meetings if they can help it.
"The Activity Days and Personal Progress programs of the Church have always been in place to meet the needs of girls and young women in these age groups, and no change will be made in Church programs", LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins in a statement released immediately after news broke of the BSA vote.
The Boys Scouts of America Board of Directors has voted unanimously in favor of allowing girls to join the organization. The results indicated that families were ready for the Boy Scouts to be girl friendly. Earlier this year, the group announced it would admit transgender boys.
In August, the president of the Girl Scouts accused the Boy Scouts of seeking to covertly recruit girls into their programs while disparaging the Girl Scouts' operations. She added that a co-ed model goes against "research supporting single gender programming".
The BSA's argument is that Scout Law requires members to be "reverent" while the Scout Oath includes the line, "I will do my best to do my duty to God". "Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households than ever before, making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing".
The Girl Scouts, established in 1912, and the BSA, established in 1910, are among a few noteworthy youth associations in the US encountering sharp drops in participation lately. For some families, scouting programs that welcome both boys and girls could be a welcome convenience.