Hornaday Award

Longhorn Council Hornaday Program and Award

Think of It as an Olympic Medal bestowed by the Earth

Conservation and the Boy Scouts of America have been partners for a long time. Camping, hiking, and respect for the outdoors are a part of the Scouting heritage. Many of the requirements for advancement from Tenderfoot through Eagle Scout rank call for an increasing awareness and understanding of the natural sciences. Many former Scouts have become leaders in conserving our environment and protecting it from abuse. Right now, Scouts are involved in learning about environmental problems and actively working to make a difference.

This awards program was created to recognize those that have made significant contributions to conservation. It was begun in 1914 by Dr. William T. Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Park and founder of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Dr. Hornaday was an active and outspoken champion of natural resource conservation and a leader in saving the American bison from extinction. He named the award the Wildlife Protection Medal. Its purpose was to challenge Americans to work constructively for wildlife conservation and habitat protection. After his death in 1937, the award was renamed in Dr. Hornaday’s honor and became a Boy Scouts of America award.

In the early 1970s, the present awards program was established with funding from the DuPont Company. At that time, the late Dr. Hornaday’s idea of conservation was broadened to include environmental awareness.

The Hornaday Awards are highly prized by those who have received them: Approximately 1,100 medals have been awarded over the past 80 years. These awards represent a substantial commitment of time and energy by individuals who have learned the meaning of a conservation/environmental ethic. Any Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or Venturer willing to devote the time and energy to work on a project based on sound scientific principles and guided by a conservation professional or a trained Hornaday Advisor can qualify for one of the Hornaday Awards. The awards often take months to complete, so activities should be planned well in advance. The fundamental purpose of the Hornaday Awards program is to encourage learning by the participants and to increase public awareness about natural resource conservation. Understanding and practicing sound stewardship of natural resources and environmental protection strengthens Scouting’s emphasis on respecting the outdoors. The goal of this awards program is to encourage and recognize truly outstanding efforts undertaken by Scouting units, Scouts and Venturers, adult Scouters, and other individuals, corporations, and institutions that have contributed significantly to natural resource conservation and environmental protection.

Contact the Longhorn Council Conservation Committee:

[email protected]

Longhorn Council process for the Hornaday Awards

The Hornaday Advisor will submit the Hornaday Workbook Project Plan to the Hornaday Committee prior to starting the project. After the approved project is completed, the workbook is resubmitted to the Hornaday Committee for its final approval. The Hornaday Committee then will forward it to the National Council (as required by the award level).

[email protected]

You can access more information about all the Hornaday Awards at:  http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Awards/HornadayAwards/Forms.aspx

To become an Advisor please check out this link: http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Awards/HornadayAwards/Advisor.aspx  and Contact the Longhorn Council Conservation Committee.

Hornaday Awards awarded by the Longhorn Council:

  • The Council may present the William T. Hornaday unit certificate for a conservation project by a pack, troop, team, or crew.
  • The Council may award the Hornaday Badge to individual Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturers for outstanding service in conservation.
  • The Council may award the Hornaday Gold Badge to adult Scouters who have given significant leadership to conservation at a Council or district level for three years.

Hornaday Awards awarded by the BSA National Council:

  • Scouts and Venturers may apply for the Bronze and Silver Medals.
  • Adult Scouters may be nominated for the Gold Medal.
  • Organizations unaffiliated with Scouting may be nominated for the Gold Certificate.

Awards Chart

Hornaday Award Administered by Awarded to Type of Award How to Qualify Maximum
Hornaday Unit award Council Pack, troop, team, crew Certificate Be nominated or apply Unlimited Complete one project; 60% of unit contributes
Hornaday Badge Council Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or Venturer Badge and certificate Apply Unlimited Complete advancement requirements; complete one substantial project
Hornaday Bronze medal National Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or Venturer Medal, certificate, and square knot Apply Unlimited Complete advancement requirements; complete at least three bronze substantial projects, each from a different project category
Hornaday Silver medal National Scouts BSA or Venturer Medal, certificate, and square knot Apply Unlimited Complete advancement requirements; complete at least four silver substantial projects, each from a different project category
Hornaday Gold badge Council Adult Scouter Badge Be nominated Unlimited Adult Scouter; leadership to conservation at council or district level for at least three years
Hornaday Gold medal National Adult Scouter Medal, certificate, and square knot Be nominated Six Adult Scouter; leadership to conservation at national or regional level over a lifetime (at least 20 years)
Hornaday Gold certificate National Corporation or organization Certificate Be nominated Six Outstanding contribution to youth conservation education for at least three years

Hornaday Projects Ideas and suggestions

Most of the Hornaday awards require the Scout to conduct several significant conservation projects, each covering a different area of conservation. The projects must be based on sound scientific principles, address a conservation problem, and contribute to conservation and environment improvement on a long-term scale. The Scout is required to plan, lead, and carry out these projects and, as Dr. Hornaday stated, actual results count heavily.

There are no guidelines as to what makes a project “significant,” but choosing and planning a project could make all the difference. Consider this example of a single project executed two ways. A Boy Scout organizes his unit to plant a few hundred seedlings in a burned-over area. A Venturer researches why the area has not naturally regenerated and what species are common to the area, conducts an inventory, finds a good source for native plants, organizes a tree-planting event, and obtains community assistance in planting by diligently publicizing the efforts. The following year, the Venturer returns to the area to document survival and assess if replanting is necessary. The actual results—planting the seedlings—for these two projects are the same, and some reviewers may consider both significant. However, the results of second project—thorough education of the Scout, the unit, and the community—will stand a better chance of withstanding the rigors of a review.

Guidelines for the Hornaday Award call for the candidate to complete projects in several areas of conservation. Some projects might fit into several categories depending on local circumstances. For instance, a single trail-reconstruction project might be categorized as soil and water conservation if it addresses erosion, or categorized as fish and wildlife management if it attempts to erase the impact of human intervention into critical habitat. Trail reconstruction might not meet Hornaday qualifications at all if it is attempted only for recreational access.

While one site may support projects in several areas, each project must stand on its own. In these cases, specific work items at a site must not be counted for completion of more than one project, and the interrelationship of projects must be carefully explained in the documentation.

How big a project should be and how long it should last be commonly asked questions. Collecting aluminum cans over a weekend along with many other Scouts is a fine public service, but since little learning took place and there was no lasting impact on the community, the project would not qualify for a Hornaday Award. Similarly, a simple, one-time tree planting effort would not qualify.

However, a reforestation project in cooperation with a professional forester or park planner, learning which trees are appropriate to the area, ensuring proper spacing for best growth, following proper planting methods, and caring for the trees after planting might well qualify. Starting a community-wide recycling project and encouraging people to recycle might also qualify. Size of the project is not necessarily the important element. Rather, the results, the learning that took place, the applicant’s demonstrated leadership, and the significance of the contribution to the community, park, or other lands are what count.

As to time, past recipients of the medals have indicated it takes no less than 18 months to complete the required merit badges and projects. So, it’s a good idea to start early in your Scouting career. You will find the Conservation Handbook, No. 33570, to be an invaluable source of ideas and assistance.


Project Categories

  • Energy Conservation
  • Soil and Water Conservation
  • Fish and Wildlife Management
  • Forestry and Range Management
  • Air and Water Pollution Control
  • Resource Recovery (Recycling)
  • Hazardous Material Disposal and Management
  • Invasive Species Control

Project Examples

  • Energy conservation
  • Soil and water conservation
  • Fish and wildlife management
  • Forestry and range management
  • Air and water pollution control
  • Resource recovery (recycling)
  • Hazardous material disposal and management
  • Invasive species control

Other good ideas for projects may be found in the publications and pamphlets of groups such as the National Audubon Society, the Izaak Walton League, the National Wildlife Federation, or governmental agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, USDA Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, state natural resource conservation agencies, and your state cooperative extension service. The best way to identify a project is to discuss the options with a Hornaday adviser.


The job is not done until the paperwork is complete. This adage applies to the Hornaday Awards in a significant way. For many applicants, documentation will be the most difficult part of the process. A good guide for how the Boy Scouts of America approaches documenting a project is the Hornaday Work Book.  This workbook helps the applicant break project documentation into pieces, making each one easier to address.

It should be noted that the project descriptions are the only items that the national Hornaday Awards committee should review during its deliberations. It is a good idea to include an extra project in case one of them does not meet the high standards for the Hornaday award.

The candidate should carefully document each step in the project’s development, beginning with the factors used to identify the conservation problem, the reasoning behind the choice of projects, and the avenues of accomplishment. Supporting materials like letters, newspaper articles, and photos are essential. A letter of thanks from the benefiting site is an excellent idea.

Also, the candidate must document all phases and aspects of accomplishing the project. Records should reflect not only the activities and hours spent performing the field work to complete the project, but also the planning, preparation, research, negotiation, design, approvals, etc., that were necessary to arrive there. The adviser can help broaden the candidate’s view of what constitutes accomplishment, which in turn helps define the extent of the project’s impact.

Most young people will have a tough time completing the significant amount of documentation required and working with feedback from adult reviewers. You can help ease the frustration with careful coaching that this process is common in the professional world. Advisers and candidates alike should bear in mind that that such reviews will help produce a better product with a higher chance of receiving a favorable review from the council and national review committees.

Things to consider are:

  • Was each project described in detail, including illustrations and/or photographs of the work done?
  • Did the applicant meet the expectations for project documentation? Include reasons for choosing each project, preparation, research, consulting others, design, planning, and approvals from land managers for each project.
  • Were newspaper articles, letters of thanks or commendation, and other supporting materials included in one well-organized binder?
  • Do the plans demonstrate excellence?
  • Did these projects result in a positive impact on the local community?
  • Did the applicant give leadership and involve others in carrying out the projects?
  • Did the applicant receive guidance from other organizations and professionals?
  • Did the applicant help others learn about natural resource conservation?

Report Elements/Format

Project Category 
Project Title 
Project Description 
What was done?
Who did it?
When was it done?
How was it done?
How did you come up with the idea?
Why did you undertake this project?
How was the project planned?
How was the project designed?
How long did it take you to do the project?
Where was the project carried out? What was the environmental issue or problem?
What was the resulting environmental improvement?
What did you learn?
How did the project involve and influence others? (What did they learn?)
How did you give leadership to the project?
What help did you receive from others—individuals and organizations?


  • Photographs
  • Sketches
  • Letters of appreciation/thanks
  • News articles

SIGNATURES (before submitting):

  • Applicant
  • Hornaday Advisor
  • Unit Leader

A quality report is well-organized, correct, and complete, and looks good—neatness counts – Single binder presentation.  The job’s not done until the paperwork is complete. 

Project Expectations

Applicants expected to:

  1. Describe the origination of the idea.
  2. State the project’s purpose and identify the conservation issue it addresses.
  3. Conduct research, investigation, and study.
  4. Develop project plans.
  5. Implement and manage the projects.
  6. Demonstrate leadership and involve others.
  7. Describe how the project influenced the attitudes of others.
  8. Record the time and resources devoted to each project.

Venturers only: In addition to the required project documentation, as outlined above under “Expectations,” provide specific information on:

  • The research performed about the conservation projects undertaken.The relevant research must be cited at the appropriate location in the conservation project documentation. A bibliography must be if lists sources cited. The bibliography must be formatted per established standards.
  • The applicant’s entire Hornaday effort.This evaluation, included in the application in a separate section, should contain information on alternatives considered for each project and an explanation of why each specific conservation project was selected, procedures used, processes used, staffing levels used, funding requirements, and so on.
  • The lessons learned.Included in the report in a separate section, this details what the applicant, in hindsight, would do differently on each project. The section should include recommended changes in project selection; procedures, processes, and staffing levels used; funding requirements; and evaluations of project effectiveness over time.

Project Monitoring

Applicants for the Hornaday badge, bronze medal, and silver medal must work under the guidance of a conservation or environmental professional or Hornaday Advisor.

Each project should be designed in part to publicize the need to conserve natural resources and to improve environmental conditions.

The role of the environmental professional or Hornaday Advisor is to guide the young person into selecting significant conservation projects and to coach the youth into preparing, researching, consulting others, designing, planning, and giving leadership to others in carrying out the projects. The advisor must approve the application, indicating that the applicant’s activities have been monitored and ensuring that the projects meet local needs. The applicant’s unit leader must also approve.

The Hornaday Awards Committee expects applications to include detailed project descriptions that document the applicant’s work.

Project Screening

Applications are screened by a Hornaday committee composed of knowledgeable people aware of the needs, problems, and opportunities for conservation and environmental improvement in the local council area. Committee members will base their judgments on the work accomplished relative to the applicant’s age and compared to the accomplishments of others in the community. The decision is based on several principal factors:

  1. How much the applicant has contributed to the improvement or better management of natural resources and the environment, and the extent to which the applicant has learned from that experience
  2. The leadership the applicant has demonstrated in the planning and execution of the project(s)
  3. The extent to which the applicant has encouraged other people to plan, understand, appreciate, and practice sound conservation and environmental protection methods

The Hornaday Awards program encourages and recognizes units, Scouts, and Venturers who design, lead, and carry out conservation projects that are based on sound scientific principles and practices. The projects should contribute to sound conservation and environmental improvement in the local community, the region, or the nation. The applicant is expected to research potential projects and to choose, with guidance from a Hornaday adviser, a worthy project.

Because the badge, the bronze medal, and the silver medal are individual awards, two or more individuals cannot claim credit for the same project. However, a project may be a part of a larger conservation effort, with different applicants carrying out different aspects of the same project. An Eagle Scout leadership service project may be used as a Hornaday project if it meets the aims and objectives of the William T. Hornaday program as listed below. Projects that have already been used to earn the William T. Hornaday badge may be used as one of the projects for a medal. Applicants are encouraged to involve their unit members in project work and demonstrate Scout leadership, thereby making their unit eligible for the unit award.

There must be clear written evidence in your application that you did indeed plan, lead, and carry out long-term, substantial projects in the different conservation categories. Past winners have indicated that it takes at least 18 months or more to complete all the requirements. Judges check to see that all necessary signatures are on the applications; that the applicant (except for Venturer applicants) was not yet 18 when all requirements were completed; that all merit badge requirements have been completed; and that the projects are substantial and well-documented.

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