The BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award

The BSA DCSA is the rarest award in scouting. The award is the highest honor for conservation service and is awarded for outstanding efforts in planning, leadership, execution of the project, involvement of others, and opportunities to help others learn about natural resource conservation and environmental improvement. Click on any of the categories below to read more about the BSA DCSA.

A Brief History of the Award

Earlier in 2020, the William T. Hornaday Awards, established in the late 1930s, were discontinued and the BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Awards program was launched. It is a modernized, streamlined program designed to encourage more conservation advocacy and service. The main difference between the awards are a slight change in merit badge requirements and only two conservation projects, rather than three or four. 

The Award Requirements

The requirements to earn the BSA DCSA are as follows:

  1. Be a First Class Scout
  2. Earn the following five Merit Badges:
    1. Environmental Science
    2. Fish and Wildlife Management
    3. Forestry
    4. Soil and Water Conservation
    5. Sustainability
  3. Earn any two of the following Merit Badges:
    1. Bird Study, Energy, Fishing, Fly‐Fishing, Gardening, Geology, Insect Study, Landscape Architecture,
      Mammal Study, Nature, Nuclear Science, Oceanography, Plant Science, Pulp and Paper, Reptile and
      Amphibian Study, or Weather.
  4. Plan, lead and carry out two conservation projects, from two different categories (Categories include Air
    and Water Pollution Control, Energy Conservation, Fish & Wildlife Management, Forestry & Range
    Management, Hazardous Materials Disposal and Management, Invasive Species Control, Pollinator
    Management, Resource Recovery, or Soil & Water Conservation). The projects must be developed under
    the guidance and pre‐approval of the Scout’s Unit Leader, a BSA Distinguished Conservation Service
    Award Adviser and the Council Conservation Committee. One of the projects may include the Scout’s
    Eagle Scout project, if applicable. All projects must contribute to environment improvement on a long‐
    term scale. Applicants must use the BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award Workbook to
    document each of the service projects.
  5. Successfully pass a board of review conducted by the local Council’s Conservation Committee.

What Qualifies as a Project?

First and foremost, the project must be a conservation project—it must be designed to address a conservation issue or need in the local area, and it must benefit the environment or the creatures that live there. Making an area more accessible for people is rarely for the benefit of the environment.

How big a project should be and how long it should last are commonly asked questions.

Collecting aluminum cans over a weekend along with many other Scouts is a fine public service, but since little learning took place and there was no lasting impact on the community, the project would not qualify towards this Award. Similarly, a simple, one-time tree planting effort would not qualify.

However, a reforestation project in cooperation with a professional forester or park planner, learning which trees are appropriate to the area, ensuring proper spacing for best growth, following proper planting methods, and caring for the trees after planting might well qualify. Starting a community-wide recycling project and encouraging people to recycle might also qualify. Size of the project is not necessarily the important element. Rather, the results, the learning that took place, the applicant’s demonstrated leadership, and the significance of the contribution to the community, park, or other lands are what count.

Conservation Categories for the Project

  • 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