William T. Hornaday Awards
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
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
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 well-versed layperson 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
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
Guidelines for the William T. Hornaday Award Conservation Adviser
A Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or Venturer working toward a William T. Hornaday Award has taken on a great task, and a noble one: to provide distinguished service to natural resource conservation. As the candidate's adviser, you have been recognized as a conservation or environmental professional or qualified layperson in conservation, usually with a degree or advanced degree in one of the natural sciences, and you will guide the candidate through the selection, planning, and accomplishment of a significant conservation project.
There are several different Hornaday awards. (The gold badge and gold medal are for adults.) Think of them as an "olympics of conservation."
Checklists for Completing and Submitting Applications
To apply or to nominate a unit, complete the application for the unit award and submit it to your local council service center for review and approval by the council conservation committee and Scout executive. The local council forwards the approved application to the national office of the Boy Scouts of America.
How Do I Earn a Hornaday Medal?
Since 1917, about 1,100 Hornaday medals have been awarded. The Wildlife Protection Medal was a forerunner to the Hornaday Awards. Dr. William T. Hornaday, an ardent conservationist, established this awards program to recognize Scouts who undertook and completed truly exceptional conservation projects. Earning one is hard work—it is supposed to be—but it's worth it.
Applications and Nomination Forms
Forms for the William T. Hornaday Awards may be downloaded from this page, along with instructions for completing and submitting applications. For more detailed instructions, consult the adviser guidelines, BSA Supply No. 21-379.
Who Was William T. Hornaday?
Dr. Hornaday (1854-1937) was a pioneer in wildlife conservation. He believed in Scouting. He helped found the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and was founder, then director, of the New York Zoological Park for more than 20 years.
How Applications Are Judged
The application, with supporting documentation, is the primary basis upon which decisions are made. The national Hornaday Awards Committee may grant as many awards as possible, provided the demanding expectations are met. Dr. Hornaday stated, "Unusual prizes are to be won only by unusual services."
National Council Criteria in Judging
For Hornaday Awards conferred by the National Council, Boy Scouts of America, these are the major criteria used in judging. Also see "How Applications Are Judged." (BSA local councils hold applicants for the Hornaday unit award, badge, and adult Scouter gold badge to similarly high standards.)
Hornaday Projects and Youth Awards
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.