The Hornaday 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. 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 Hornaday’s honor and became a BSA award, which was later broadened to include environmental awareness.
The Hornaday Awards are highly prized by those who have received them. Two medals are available to Scouts, with the Silver Medal being the highest award possible to a youth under age 21. 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 projects based on sound scientific principles under the guidance of a professional conservation adviser can can qualify for one of the Hornaday Awards. The medal-level awards often take several years 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 by Scouting units, Scouts, Venturers, adult Scouters and other individuals, corporations and institutions that have contributed significantly to natural resource conservation and environmental protection.