Evansville scout wins conservation award Print
Thursday, Jun. 16, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

Isaiah Janisch Award
Eagle Scout Isaiah Janisch was recently awarded the William T. Hornaday Silver Medal for Distinguished Service to Natural Resource Conservation. Pictured above is Janisch being presented the award by Phil Kress, who was an adviser on some of his projects. Janisch is a member of St. Paul Parish in Evansville. (Contributed photo)

MADISON -- Culminating years of conservation work, Eagle Scout Isaiah Janisch, a member of Boy Scout Troop 514 in Evansville, was awarded the William T. Hornaday Silver Medal for Distinguished Service to Natural Resource Conservation, Boy Scouting's highest award for conservation.

In a ceremony on May 14 at the UW Arboretum Visitor Center, Janisch was recognized and honored for his multi-year volunteer and conservation activities.

Projects and achievements

To earn the Hornaday Silver Medal, Janisch earned 14 conservation-related merit badges and organized and led five service projects, each in a different area of conservation, over a three-year period.

Under his leadership, these projects resulted in over 1,300 hours of volunteer service by 41 volunteers, including over 450 hours from Janisch personally.

For his project in soil and water conservation, Janisch worked to control soil erosion on the Grove Community School Forest by reducing the grade of a steep embankment. He also created a permanent sign for educational materials.

Janisch built or refurbished 19 bird-nesting boxes for the school forest, which enabled a family of eastern bluebirds to fledge nine young, and documented the nesting results for two seasons to complete his project in fish and wildlife management.

In the invasive species removal category, he cataloged the existence of seven invasive species found in the school forest and removed or established long-term control plans for four of those species.

He established a new native prairie plot on the school forest and enhanced or maintained several other existing plots, demonstrating knowledge of forestry and range management.

Finally, he organized a battery recycling drive that diverted over 332 pounds of batteries from landfills. He also hosted an educational booth at the Evansville Earth Day Energy Fair to talk to people about hazardous material disposal and management.

To put this rare achievement in perspective, over 2.3 million Boy Scouts have reached the rank of Eagle Scout, but only 114 scouts have earned the Hornaday Silver Medal in its 40-year history.

While many are familiar with the hard work and dedication it takes to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, few know much about the William T. Hornaday Silver Medal, an award the Boy Scouts call "an Olympic medal bestowed by the Earth."

Award ceremony

Attendees at the award ceremony learned about the history of Dr. Hornaday, who was a famous conservationist best known for preserving the American bison from extinction.

He created a conservation awards program in 1915 called the Wildlife Protection Medal.

After his death in 1937, the award was renamed in his honor and became a Boy Scouts of America award.

The ceremony also featured a keynote address on "Wisconsin Prairie Conservation" by Richard Henderson, a research ecologist at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Science Services.

Speaking to scouts who may be interested in earning a Hornaday award, Janisch said, "Don't worry if you don't know everything right now, because a big part of what Dr. Hornaday intended for the award was learning. You will learn a lot when you do research for the projects and then you'll learn even more when you do the project work. Then, you'll teach other people through your projects."

When asked what his favorite project was, Janisch said, "I really enjoyed the Forestry and Range Management project where I worked in the native prairie plots. You can go to a museum and see pictures or dioramas of prairies, but unless you go visit a prairie, you don't get the real sense. It is an amazing experience when you see all the different plants growing together. These prairies are like a living museum."

Leader in other areas

Janisch is 18 years old and a member of St. Paul Parish in Evansville. In addition to serving at Mass, he has been a religious education teacher for third grade.

As a Cub Scout, he earned the Light of Christ and Parvuli Dei religious awards.

Earlier this year, Janisch's leadership, citizenship, community involvement, and academic achievement were recognized by the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation with a $5,000 excellence scholarship.