My name is Jason Woodman, I am a Life Scout with Troop 1094 in Darnestown, Maryland, and a freshman at Poolesville High School in Poolesville, Maryland. I am my troop’s Outdoor Ethics Guide. I’ve been reading about endangered Monarch butterflies for a while now. Monarchs are amazing because of their migration. They fly 3,000 miles all the way down to Mexico every fall to winter in the forests. Then in the spring, they fly back up to the United States to breed. Clearly, environmental issues have affected the Monarch butterflies like climate change and drought. While reading about Monarch butterflies I learned that many pollinators are disappearing. I decided I wanted to complete an Eagle project that would help Monarch butterflies and other pollinators.
I live in the town of Poolesville which is surrounded by the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve. People here really love the environment and nature. We are a town of only 5,700 people but we are surrounded by farms. We are lucky to have a lot of parks with walking and biking trails. There are already two established pollinator habitats however they are not really seen or accessible by the public due to their locations. I wanted my pollinator habitat to be located in a very visible location where I could not only make an environmental impact but could also educate the public about the importance of pollinators.
As I was researching my pollinator habitat idea I learned about the BSA Distinguished Conservation Award (DCSA). The DCSA award is the former Hornaday Award. It encourages scouts to design, lead, and carry out a conservation project. The project must be designed to address a conservation issue or need in the local area and it must benefit the environment or creatures that live there. There are nine conservation project categories to choose from and you must complete two projects in two different categories. One project may count as your Eagle project. I decided I wanted to earn this award and my first project would be in the category of pollinator habitat conservation.
In order to make a significant impact on the environment, I knew I needed to create a large project. I needed at least ½ acre piece of land from the town. First, I had to present my idea to the Town of Poolesville Parks and Recreation Board. They agreed that my idea was a good one and recommended I present my idea to the Town of Poolesville Commissioners at one of their public meetings. Thankfully, the Town Commissioners really liked my initial proposal. They agreed to grant me a ½ acre piece of land and gave me a budget of $6,000 for pollinator plants.
The piece of land they granted me was a back entrance to Stevens Park. There is a walking/bike trail that runs right in front of the open land. The land was just flat grass. The town was mowing this piece of land from mid-March through November at least once a week. My idea was to completely take away the need to mow. I worked with a local landscape company called Fine Earth Landscape. They helped me design seven gardens that would contain 391 native straight species pollinator plants. These plants were one gallon in size. There were 12 different varieties which included two types of milkweed and colorful plants like Lobelia Cardinalis which attracts hummingbirds. A field of native wildflower seeds would then surround the seven gardens. The idea is to have the ½ acre filled with native straight species pollinator plants. It will take a few years to completely fill in the seven gardens and the wildflower meadow.
I knew this project would require a lot of people to dig the holes. I decided to have a team lead for each of the seven gardens as my point of contact. I decided to give each team lead a map of their garden so they followed my plant design. I estimated I needed about 30 people to help dig 391 holes for the plants. I reached out in person and via email to my Darnestown BSA Troop 1094, Poolesville BSA Troop 2027 for girls, Poolesville BSA Troop 496 for boys, teammates from my Upper Montgomery Lightning high school ice-hockey team, and other citizens from the community.
My project day was March 25, 2023, and it rained – A LOT! The entire area became a giant mud pit. I put a message out to everyone I recruited that this event would be rain or shine. I anticipated just a few of my fellow Troop Scouts showing up to help me with my parents. I was so surprised that 60 volunteers arrived to help plant the habitat despite the rain! Thanks to all of their help we had this habitat planted in two hours just when the rain stopped. Everyone was covered in mud but everyone said they had a lot of fun. I was nervous when so many people showed up however, it became a really easy project to lead. I think my success was a result of all my hard pre-planning. Everyone literally went straight to work digging holes and placing the plants in the ground.
The following Friday I went back to the site and installed my education signs. I have five signs from Monarch Joint Venture which have QR codes people can use to read more about the importance of Monarchs. I also installed the main habitat sign explaining the importance of pollinators. After I installed the signs, I spread 50 lbs of native straight species wildflower seeds.
My town’s local newspaper, the Monocacy Monocle, recognized my efforts. Our local town’s Facebook page congratulated all of the volunteers for helping in the rain and creating such an incredible habitat. At the last Town of Poolesville Commissioners meeting, Jim Brown, the President of the Poolesville Commissioners said, “This is single handedly one of the best scout projects that has ever taken place in Poolesville.” I am really flattered that so many in the community are excited about this project and that they are so supportive.
So far, I have over 150 hours into my project of planning and planting. However, I’m not done with this project yet. Right now, I am going back once a week and making sure the plants are doing ok. I’m excited that I’ve started to see some growth in the bare root plants. The 2nd part of my project is having a pollinator educational booth on May 6th at the Poolesville Springfest festival. Here I had some native straight species plants on display and explain to the community why they should plant native straight species pollinators in their backyard and how even a small amount of plants can make a big environmental impact.
Throughout my scouting career so far, I have earned 84 merit badges, earned the World Conservation Award, the 50th Anniversary Environmental Protection Agency Award, National Outdoor Achievement Award for Conservation, the National Outdoor Ethics Action Award, five other scout awards, and became a Leave No Trace Trainer. I hope to earn my Eagle Rank in May after completing my Scoutmaster Conference and Eagle Scout Board of Review. I will be attending my first High Adventure this summer at Summit Bechtel. Then I will start planning my 2nd project with the goal of earning the BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award (DCSA). My future plan is to attend college to become a wildlife biologist.