Montana/Dakotas

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Dogged Work Brings Rare Honor for Scout

 Article by Zach Benoit, reprinted with permission of the Billings Gazette 

Scott receives his award 

Jack Sherick, Scott, and Heather O’Hanlon (l to r) at the Court of Honor

In the past five years, only two Montana Boy Scouts have received the William T. Hornaday Award, and only 1,100 nationwide have earned it since 1917.
 
For nearly a year’s worth of conservation education and projects, Scott Robertson [of Billings], 12, joined that exclusive club on March 25, 2010. Described by the Boy Scouts of America as “an Olympic medal bestowed by the Earth,” Hornaday Awards are given to Scouts who commit a substantial amount of time to conservation through earning merit badges and completing conservation projects.
 
“It feels really exciting to get the awards,” said Robertson, who is a seventh-grader at Castle Rock Middle School. “I thought it was going to be less exhilarating.”
 
To earn the award, Scott had to earn at least five merit badges from a list of 21 laid out by the Boy Scouts of America and plan, lead and complete a project in natural resource conservation. He earned his badges in environmental science, forestry, fish and wildlife management, bird study, and pulp and paper, said his father Chris Robertson. 
 
“He really has the desire for outdoor activities and projects,” Chris Robertson said.
 
The Hornaday award 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.
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.
Scott, one of the 13 members of Boy Scout Troop 28, had earned those badges by last April and from there he tackled the project. He designed a brochure on fire-resistant plant species suitable for Montana’s climate and a series of wildfire prevention posters, both of which were created for the Bureau of Land Management.  Click here to see one of Scott's posters.
 
The hardest part, Scott said, was researching and putting together the facts and information for the brochure and posters. He had some help getting started from his dad and Heather O’Hanlon, a fire mitigation education specialist with the BLM’s Billings office who spoke to his troop earlier that year, but he did the rest of the work on his own.
 
“He did such a great job with it,” O’Hanlon said. “For us, it’s a great way to get fire information into younger age groups. I think when you have a product like that, one that people can identify with, I think people pay attention more to the material.”
 
O’Hanlon liked his work so much that she has decided to debut it at the BLM’s booth at a Lockwood Fire safety event in May.
 
Scott was present with the award [March 25, 2010] at his troop’s Scout of Honor, a semi-annual event designed to recognize individual scouts’ and the troop’s achievements. Jack Sherick, assistant scout executive for the Montana Council, came from Great Falls to present the award. 
 
Chris Robertson said that now Scott plans on achieving the next levels of the Hornaday Award—bronze and silver—which require him to earn more merit badges and plan and complete several more conservation projects.
 
“It was very fun,” Scott said. “I love doing this kind of stuff anyway, though.”