Eagle Scout Jack McManis was awarded the Boy Scouts of America William T. Hornaday Silver Medal for his work on several projects the last four years, including a huge conservation project, resulting in the creation of Mukilteo Elementary School’s outdoor classroom. Here, he sits in a bird blind he built, from which more than 25 species of birds have already been observed and identified. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Eagle Scout Jack McManis was awarded the Boy Scouts of America William T. Hornaday Silver Medal for his work on several projects the last four years, including a huge conservation project, resulting in the creation of Mukilteo Elementary School’s outdoor classroom. Here, he sits in a bird blind he built, from which more than 25 species of birds have already been observed and identified. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Mukilteo Eagle Scout wins national conservation award

MUKILTEO — Eagle Scout Jack McManis recently was awarded the William T. Hornaday Silver Medal, the most distinguished youth conservation award bestowed by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

The honor is described by the national group as “an Olympic Medal Bestowed by the Earth.”

McManis was previously recognized with the 2014 Young Environmentalist of the Year award from the Snohomish Conservation District, as well as a mayoral proclamation.

The 17-year-old’s concern for the environment came before he started with Scouting.

“I can remember being 2 years old and looking out the window at all the birds and being fascinated,” he said.

Hiking and camping trips with family and Boy Scout Troop 18 out of St. Mary Magdalen Parish helped cement his interest.

To earn the medal, McManis had to complete nine conservation-related badges, as well as four projects. Most of that work benefited an outdoor learning area at Mukilteo Elementary School, where he used to be a student.

McManis organized teams to rid an area of invasive and noxious weeds and replace them with native plants. He stabilized an eroding hillside and rerouted the runoff to a specially constructed drain.

A 12-barrel system now captures rainwater from a portable classroom roof to irrigate nearby plants. The teen added cedar nest boxes for birds at the school and at Fire Mountain Scout Camp, and improved habitat for ground-dwelling wrens.

His Eagle Scout project also was completed at the school. To earn that rank, McManis built an observational bird blind.

In all, he spent more than 1,500 hours on the projects.

Still, it was not a given that he would be awarded the medal. This year, just six were awarded nationwide. That compares to the tens of thousands of Eagle Scout ranks achieved each year.

The Hornaday program follows a motto of its namesake, the founder of the National Zoo: “Unusual prizes are to be won only by unusual services.”

Fifth-grade teacher Sue Idso got to know McManis over the years as he worked to improve the school’s “outdoor classroom.”

“Over that time, I’ve learned that Jack inherited his family’s amazing dedication to making happen what seems impossible through sheer hard work and dedication,” she said.

It’s a sentiment echoed by staff at the Snohomish Conservation District, where McManis helped with rain garden and rain barrel projects.

“I was most impressed with his work for the Hornaday Medal. He took on four separate projects that most people fresh out of college would struggle with and did a great job,” said Ryan Williams, a program manager. “Jack’s hard work and dedication to improving the natural world at such a young age is an important example for kids in middle and high school.”

McManis said he particularly enjoyed hearing from the elementary school students.

“I’d have instances where I’d be working in the outdoor classroom and the kids would come up and say, ‘When is the next work party?’” he recalled.

The younger students began to see how they, too, could make a difference, he said. “Having another generation of conservationists so excited and optimistic to make a difference is really what hit home for me.”

Aside from Scouting, McManis is active with the Puget Sound Bird Observatory and helps with its multi-year study of wintering fox sparrows in Shoreline. He worked as an intern last year with the Snohomish Conservation District, installing rain gardens and supervising EarthCorps volunteers.

He also rows competitively with the Everett Rowing Association, placing first with his teammate in a regional competition and 10th nationally.

The Kamiak High School senior is applying to colleges and recently visited the University of Washington. He hopes to major in civil engineering, with a focus on sustainability.

Melissa Slager: mslager@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3432.

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