From the Boy Scouts of America’s inception, Scouts have been taught the importance of conservation. In fact, Gifford Pinchot, director of the U.S. Forest Service and the BSA’s first chief Scout forester, suggested conservation be added to the Scout Law. It didn’t end up as part of the 12 points of the BSA’s Scout Law, but the organization has since put forth many opportunities and programs to instill this value, including the BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Awards program.
Scouts BSA members who are at least First Class rank, Sea Scouts and Venturers, as well as adult volunteers and organizations, can earn a BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award. The awards encourage exemplary environmental stewardship and service. For youth, this is done through planning and leading two conservation-centric projects as well as other requirements, like studying wildlife and making presentations to the community and other Scouts.
These requirements not only encourage Scouts to be more conservation-minded, but also embolden them to be environmental advocates to others.
Making a difference
The work Scouts do must benefit the environment or the creatures in it, not people. The projects must focus on one of the following 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
- Pollinator habitat conservation
Making a natural area more accessible for people, like restoring a trail or building a bridge, rarely benefits the environment. Those are worthy projects, but likely wouldn’t qualify for the award. All projects must be approved beforehand by a unit leader and conservation award advisor or council conservation committee designee.
Scouts must also strive to ensure their projects have a long-lasting impact. So, a trash clean-up day or a one-time tree-planting effort — again, worthy pursuits — would likely not qualify for the award. An Eagle Scout project could count as long as it’s conservation focused.
Check out this page for applications, the workbook and more FAQs about the award program. The award includes a certificate and square knot. It’s given in one of three forms:
- Youth: BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award
- Adult: BSA Distinguished Conservationist
- Organizations and Individuals: BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award Certificate
This post was originally published on the Bryan on Scouting blog on April 27, 2022.