DARLINGTON—An obscure Boy Scouts of America award was recently earned by Darlington’s Michael Sinclair.
The William T. Hornaday Medal is an award that was created to recognize those who have made significant contributions to conservation. It was established in 1914 by Dr. William T. Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Park and founder of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. It was first named the Wildlife Protection Medal, but after his death in 1937, the award was renamed in honor of Hornaday and became a Boy Scouts of America award.
Since its beginning, only 1,100 William T. Hornaday Medals have been awarded. The Hornaday Medal is the most distinguished conservation award in the Boy Scouts of America and the standards are rigorous. The award represents a substantial commitment of time and energy by individuals who have learned the meaning of a conservation and environmental ethic.
To earn the award, Sinclair worked on four projects that totaled approximately 1,000 hours in the field.
He said he applied for the silver Hornaday medal but instead earned the bronze as one of his projects was not accepted.
“I had to plan all of the projects, figure out what needed to be done and how many people and what they had to do, how to get people there, how to get tools there,” Sinclair said.
The first project was helping to plant a prairie at the Natural Land Institute in Illinois.
“We grew the prairie grasses from seeds,” Sinclair said.
He said this project was the most difficult.
“It was the most diverse project since we had to remove woody invasives, we had to cut a fallen oak off of the prairie with buck saws because chainsaws were not allowed for volunteers without long, lengthy paperwork…,” Sinclair said. “We had to deal with chemicals and the signs and concrete. It was a lot of different things to keep straight.”
He said the project took approximately 350 hours over 1 ½ years.
Another project was researching and planting dogwoods in Illinois at the Natural Land Institute.
“At first we were cutting stakes from live dogwoods and planting them elsewhere,” Sinclair said. “But that didn’t work so well, as in none of them made it. So, we started gathering berries and spreading them out.”
A third project was helping to restore a prairie and install interpretive signs along the trails in Governor Dodge State Park near Dodgeville.
The fourth project was building duck houses for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on the Wisconsin River. He constructed four duck houses. He said this was the project that wasn’t accepted for the Hornaday medal.
“It wasn’t as long as the other ones,” Sinclair said. “It was only 60 or 70 hours. All they said in the letter was it wasn’t of significant enough scope. I think it didn’t reach out to enough people like the other projects did.”
Sinclair said 40-50 people were involved in the projects, which spanned four years.
“I enjoy doing things outside,” Sinclair said. “This was the perfect thing. I could do something to help the area and be doing something that I love.”
Sinclair said he was a Cub Scout starting in kindergarten and has been a Boy Scout since fifth grade. He is now a senior at Darlington High School and is still involved in the program. He is currently an Eagle Scout with five gold, five bronze and four silver palms.
Sinclair said he’s stayed involved in Boy Scouts for so many years because it’s fun.
“It’s a bunch of guys going out camping, doing things and some of them intelligent even,” Sinclair said. “It’s a good time learning something.”
He likes the camping best.
In school Sinclair is also involved in many activities, including band, choir, wrestling, cross country, track, musicals, plays, forensics and National Honor Society among other leadership groups.
After graduating high school, Sinclair said he plans to pursue a degree in natural resources. He is attempting to get into Stanford, University of Idaho or University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Sinclair was awarded the Hornaday Medal on Sunday, Jan. 22, by Christopher Brunette, the Blackhawk Area Council Camping Chair for the Arrowhead District of the Boy Scouts of America, at a ceremony held at the American Legion in Darlington.
At the ceremony he also received the National Outdoor Badge for becoming a leave no trace trainer (camping without making an impact on the land), getting wilderness first aid and earning merit badges for hiking, biking and camping as well as others.
“I had most of everything done already,” Sinclair said.
He looked into the award, completed some final tasks and applied for it.