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> updated 23/04/11
Replaced "Explorer" with "Venturer". This page was written before the BSA revamped their older youth program and developed Venturing. If you see a reference to "Exploring" think "Venturing". Learning for Life/Exploring participants may NOT earn the Hornaday Award.

First/old version of Hornaday pin

Holders of the William T. Hornaday Award wore the bar pin shown above to symbolize that they are an award holder -- the square knot insignia for holders of the now Bronze and Silver Hornaday Awards did not come along until the late 80s.

When the Awards were redesigned with more formal requirements, the Award bar was revised with the name of the award (as shown below; the actual bar is the same size as the bar pin above).

current version of Hornaday pin

Holders may wear EITHER the top bar of the medal (NOT RECOMMENDED!!! I have LOST one of the pins at a summer camp because of that "recommendation!") or the square knot insignia (see below, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!) shown on this page. The knot emblems and pins are restricted items and can only be obtained from the BSA's National Conservation and Outdoor Programs Division.

Hornaday Award square knot insignia

William T. Hornaday Conservation Awards

All Program Left side Hornaday

William T. Hornaday Conservation Awards

Here's some information about the BSA's premiere conservation award, from questions on the Scouts-L list:

Doug Newsom has a BETTER site than I have which not only explains in more detail than here the Hornaday Awards, but also has FULL COLOR scans of the Bronze and Silver Medals and the Badge. Thanks, Doug, for allowing me to link your super pages to this page!

Fred Rogers (rogersfn@US.IBM.COM) replied via the Scouts-L list:

Tyler Brooks (ship272@GEOCITIES.COM) asked:
I'm curious wether people who participated with a unit when they earned the unit version on the Hornaday Award are entitled to wear the square knot or not?

...and Fred Rogers correctly answered:

The square knot is worn only for the Bronze, Silver, or Gold Hornaday Awards. It is not worn for the unit certificate or the Hornaday Badge.

There's no Insignia Guide reference to this, but there's a simple "Scouters' Sense" reference:

The Certificate is presented to a unit or group of five or more Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts or Venturers. It is considered a unit award, and individuals don't get anything but the honor of belonging to a Hornaday Award unit.

The Badge is a personal award, and the size of the Badge corresponds to the size of the other cloth knots (on purpose). Individuals earning the Badge wear the Badge in the same location that the square knot would be worn, and do NOT get to wear the square knot.

The square knot is reserved for those earning the medals or the Gold Medallion.

William T. Hornaday square knot emblem

There is a brief reference to some of this on the older Hornaday Award applications.

Hope this clears it up and thanks, Fred for the additional information.

Tom Brashears asked a short time back (and I apologize for the lateness of my reply to you; I'm getting ready to go to Germany again and last week was spent at a military conference):

As a result, I am writing to see if you can tell me about, refer me to anyone or in anyway shed some light on the Hornaday Award. I read whats in the current requirements book and quite frankly its confusing.

Then let me see if I can resolve your confusion:

First, the William T. Hornaday Award is awarded to Cub Scouts, Scouts, Venturers and Scouters for "distinguished service to conservation and natural resource management". It is one of the BSA's oldest and must honored awards, and one in which until recently, had no real requirements that each Scout or Scouter could follow.

I earned the Hornaday Award in 1974 and it only came in a Certificate for units, a Badge for groups of five and the Medal for all others. I was one of seven receipients that year. My medal, as all of the Hornaday items, were gold-plated. There were no real "requirements" except a lot of "suggestive things" you can do.

Hornaday Gold Medal (the version I earned back in 1974).

However, the BSA back in 1991 did establish a "baseline" set of requirements and created several categories of the award:

The BADGE is earned by a Cub Scout Den, a Boy Scout Patrol, a Varsity Squad or any group of five or more Venturers for their conservation work over a period of time (normally somewhere in the neighborhood of eight to ten consective months). The local Council processes and approves the awarding of the Badge and the certificate to those individuals. The Badge is the metallic top silver bar of the Hornaday Medal and is worn by those individuals in much the same way that square knots are worn.

The BRONZE MEDAL is earned by Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts and Venturers for their service to conservation work. This is the "basic award" of the Hornaday Medal. The requirements for earning the medal is found in the current BSA Requirements Book on page 139. This award is presented and approved through the local Council.

The SILVER MEDAL is PRESENTED IN LIEU of the Bronze Medal by the BSA's National Conservation/Outdoor Committee once a year. There are only EIGHT medals presented (two per region) each year, and this represents the highest level of the award presented to a youth member. Local Councils send their best Bronze Award receipients' package to National and after a month and a half process, the BSA announces those winners twice a year (one in May and the other in November or December). This explains also why the Hornaday Award packets take so long for the final approval to be rendered; I had to wait almost a year for mine)

The GOLD MEDALLION is presented ONLY to adults that have done a degree of service to conservation and natural resource management over a ten-year period.

The most important part of meeting all of these requirements is the Scout working closely with a "Conservation Advisor". This is a professional in the conservation/natural resources field that will work with the Scout or Venturer in completing the requirements and suggesting projects and events that the Scout or Venturer can participate in to carry out the "distinguished service". Without the Conservation Advisor, who is normally a forester, or SCS person, or a Department of Agriculture member or someone like that, the Scout doesn't really stand a chance of completing much of the work required for the Award.

The requirements state that the Scout must earn Enviormental Science and two other merit badges of what is called the "Primary Conservation and quality of the Enviorment" list. This list has the following merit badges:


(In working on my Hornaday Award, I earned all of them except for Energy because that merit badge wasn't available when I was a Scout; Conservation of Natural Resources, which was replaced by Enviormental Science, was and I earned it)

If the Scout just wants to be considered for the Bronze Medal, he needs only to earn Enviormental Science and ANY TWO from this list to meet this requirement; if he wants to earn the SILVER MEDAL (explained above), he needs to earn ALL of those merit badges above.

The second requirement is that the Scout or Venturer must earn at least THREE out of what is called "the nature and conservation list":


(I earned Oceanography, Mammal Study, Nature and Weather from this group)

The third requirement calls for the Scout or Venturer to carry out projects with the Conservation Advisor in four of the core areas dealing with conservation and quality-of-enviormental life:

  • Energy conservation
  • Soil and Water conservation
  • Fish and Wildlife conservation
  • Foresty and Range management
  • Air and Water pollution control
  • Resource recovery (recycling/reuse/reclaimation)

The biggest thing here is that the Scout CANNOT "double-dip". That is, he cannot use the project stuff here to meet merit badge requirements. These can be the same types of things, but in one area he has to complete projects to meet the merit badge and the other as one of the projects for the Award.

I would document and take photos of both so that there's no confusion between the project which was done to meet the Merit Badge work and the work which was conducted to meet the project standard above.

The rest of the requirements will come naturally with the carrying out of the other projects: letters and news stories, talks at public meetings or other events, displays and other items. The resume summary is what the National Committee will read first about what the Scout or Venturer has done to complete all of the requirements. It should be concise but also should explain fully to the committee that this was not a Scout picking up trash along a roadway as part of the requirements....that perhaps the Scout separated the trash and found recyclable companies to take the various types of trash off his hands.

The other thng that gets a lot of Scouts and Venturers is the idea that "I can start work on this and six months later, I'm done". Anything done under a year gets kicked back. I know this, because mine was kicked back because I needed to do six months more of work before it would be considered.

Finally, the merit badges listed above are important, but I've found that work on the following merit badges are likewise important and shows that the Scout or Venturer is doing more in this field:

  • Camping
  • Communications
  • Gardening
  • Plant Science
  • Pulp and Paper

(Camping and Communications are required for Eagle)

I hope that this clears up the requirements and a little about what the BSA's Conservation/Outdoor Committee looks for when they receive the application from the local Council. The square knot for the Bronze and Silver Awards are the same, so even if your Scouts earn the Bronze Award and aren't interested in competing for the national-level award, that too is a special acheivement!!

Good question that has come up in regard to the William T. Hornaday Award:

Fitz asked:

Would you please advise as to whether the Projects that are used for the Bronze Award of the Hornaday can be used for the Silver?

First, the MERIT BADGE WORK used to complete merit badges in either group of badges toward the Hornaday Award CANNOT BE USED as "conservation or quality-of-enviormental life" projects.

Second, the projects for BOTH Bronze and Silver are the SAME. There's not a "bronze-level project" or a "silver-level project". For instance, a reclaimation and sorting project (in which Scouts go out down a highway and pick up trash, bringing it back to a point whereby other Scouts separate the trash into separate bins for reclaimation (recycling) and later taking the trash to the location and handing it over) is the same whether the local Council looks at it (and they will first, for consideration for the Bronze Medal or the Badge) or the Hornaday Awards subcommittee of the National Conservation/Outdoor Committee will review it for the awarding of the eight Silver Awards awarded.

The Scout doesn't turn around and submit a new packet for consideration for the Silver Hornaday Award; the packet is sent immediately from the local Council to the National Office when the Scout Executive signs and states his or her approval of the Bronze Award to that Scout.

National takes it from there.

Also is the Patch's service project usable for the Bronze Award? Or are they all new projects for each Award level. Thanks.

There's not a Hornaday Patch. There's several conservation award emblems, among them the Hometown USA award and the Save Our American Resources (SOAR) conservation awards...and local Councils like Lincoln Heritage (my old, your present) Council may also have. Again, if the work was done as part of meeting requirements for a specific Merit Badge, NO. If the requirements were met separately and not in connection with merit badge work, yes, it can be used for consideration for the Badge, the Bronze Award, and/or the Silver Award.

Remember that National presents a limited number of Silver Hornaday Awards each year, and that the quality of the Scouts' work depends on which level of the award the Scout will receive. All local Councils will send their best Hornaday Award packets to National because they want those Scouts to get the Silver Award if there's nobody else's work that comes close.

Thanks for asking me and I wish your Scouts great luck on working toward this special honor and award!!


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