Scouts can help protect the environment by earning the new Environmental Protection Agency award

When he taught merit badge classes at Woodland Trails Scout Reservation in Ohio, Andrew Wheeler wanted Scouts to know the importance of conservation and environmental issues we face. It’s still his mission as the 15th administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

To commemorate the agency’s 50th anniversary last year, the Boy Scouts of America and EPA signed a memorandum of understanding to create a special award, encouraging those in the Scouts BSA program to strive to protect the environment. The award, which features a patch, requires Scouts to earn environmental and community health-focused merit badges and participate in a service project.

“There’s so many merit badges that fit in with the EPA’s mission,” Wheeler says. “Scouts care about the environment; it goes to the heart of Scouting.”

The Boy Scouts of America and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have had similar conservation goals since the inception of each organization — the BSA in 1910 and the EPA in 1970. Wheeler, an Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow Vigil member, announced the agreement between the two organizations, which lasts until the end of 2021, at which time could be extended.

Wheeler sees the collaboration as a way to foster interest in conservation while educating Scouts on the EPA, a governmental agency devoted to the protection of human health and the environment.

“This is the age when you develop hobbies, skills and interests that stick with you for your whole life,” he says. “I think this award will open up their eyes to environmental issues.”

How to earn it

The award is designed to teach Scouts about their world and encourage them to explore and preserve it. Here is the award application. To earn the 50th Anniversary Environmental Protection Agency award, Scouts must earn four merit badges: the Public Health merit badge and one from each of three following groups.

Animal study group:

  • Animal Science
  • Bird Study
  • Insect Study
  • Mammal Study
  • Reptile and Amphibian Study

Outdoor activity group:

  • Backpacking
  • Camping
  • Climbing
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Fly-Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Gardening
  • Kayaking
  • Rafting
  • Scuba Diving
  • Whitewater
  • Wilderness Survival

Earth sciences group:

  • Energy
  • Forestry
  • Geology
  • Nature
  • Oceanography
  • Plant Science
  • Soil and Water Conservation
  • Weather

If your Scout has already earned these merit badges, they can count toward the Environmental Protection Agency award. In addition to the merit badges, Scouts must also participate in an environmental or public health community service project totaling at least six hours, as part of an approved Scouting program. The project could be anything from picking up litter to organizing a public health awareness initiative.

“There’s a lot they can do,” Wheeler says.

Scouts can start working on the award now, but all of the requirements must be completed by Dec. 31, 2021.


Merit badge pamphlets have a wealth of information for teaching Scouts about conservation, public health and the environment. Many are available online. For more on Scouting outdoor ethics, click here and for BSA conservation resources, click here.

You can also find information on EPA education and priority initiative pages, including Trash-Free Waters, Winning on Reducing Food Waste and Healthy School Environments.

About Michael Freeman 438 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.