Conservation twins

Boy Scout brothers organize events to build awareness of area natural resources—like the Truckee River

Craig (left) and Tim Hansen, the high-achieving, award-winning Boy Scouts who are bent on protecting the Truckee Meadows environment.

Craig (left) and Tim Hansen, the high-achieving, award-winning Boy Scouts who are bent on protecting the Truckee Meadows environment.

Photo By Deidre Pike

The boys are cleaning berry stains off their fingers when I arrive at Rock Park. They’ve been picking blackberries along the Truckee River.

“Are the berries ripe?” I ask.

“Not anymore,” say the twin 12-year-olds, both decked out in full Boy Scout uniforms, complete with dozens of merit badges. “We ate the ripe ones.”

That’s OK, says one of the freckled, brown-haired boys. Another bunch of berries will be ripe again in a few days.

The berry discussion thus concluded, I try to figure out which boy is Tim Hansen, organizer of such activities as a phonebook recycling campaign that’s now spread to five Sparks schools, and which is Craig, organizer of the Sparks Community Truckee River Awareness Day coming soon to Glendale Park in Sparks. Craig has set up activities like a river cleanup, environmental information booths and presentations on the history of the Truckee River. There will even be a raffle with fun prizes, like a backpack donated by REI and beer donated by Great Basin Brewing Co. (The boys don’t drink beer. They just solicit donations from friendly microbreweries.)

It’s pretty simple to tell the twins apart, actually. Tim’s neckerchief is held together with the wooden figure painted to resemble a duck. Craig’s wearing what looks like a … wolf?

“It’s an owl,” he says.

Got it.

Craig says he was turned on to the idea of a Truckee River event because of a school project at Jerry Whitehead Elementary in Sparks. The boys’ dad, Assistant Scoutmaster Jim Hansen (no relation to the prominent political Hansen clan), fully supports every helpful community notion that Craig and Tim come up with in the boys’ quest for prestigious Boy Scout ranks and awards. Dad gets the boys making phone calls, helps put together press kits and even directs a media photo shoot. ("Pick up trash in the river,” he says to the boys as I aim the RN&R’s digital camera at the twins.)

Yes, they’re interested in making Eagle Scout—in fact, they expect they’ll be two of the youngest Eagle Scouts in the state when they receive that award. But right now, Craig and Tim have applied for a rare award, indeed—the William T. Hornaday Silver Medal. Only six such awards are given out across the nation each year: two in the East, two in the central United States and two in the West.

Hornaday badges and awards were established in 1914 to recognize the relationship between conservation and scouting. Dr. William T. Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Park and founder of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., was a champion of natural-resource conservation who led the fight to save the American bison from extinction.

“We’d be the first Nevadans ever to get [the Silver Medal],” Tim says.

“That we can find,” interjects his dad.

To get such a prestigious award, the boys are both involved in several projects and have earned plenty of badges. Craig has 39 badges; Tim has 40. The Boy Scouts offers something like 127 merit badges. How come these high achievers don’t have all 127 yet? “Not enough time,” says Tim. “Besides, you only need 21 for Eagle Scout.”

They’ve worked to tie chicken wire to the bottoms of trees as part of beaver abatement programs, and they’ve done river cleanups with the Truckee River Fly Fishing Club.

They initiated a program with the Nevada Department of Wildlife to do a bird census and install bird feeders in a retirement community. And the boys have worked at the Stillwater Wildlife Refuge in Fallon, taking out fencing, so deer don’t get caught in it, and planting trees.

“Like cottonwoods and willows,” Dad says.

“So birds have a place to nest,” Tim says.

The boys want to know if I’ve heard of Stillwater.

Yes, I have, I reply.

“It’s a wasteland,” Tim says. “I mean, a wetland.”

Bill Brooks, who

works in the Reno office of the Bureau of Land Management, is the boys’ mentor. Brooks has had some 30 years of experience with scouting. He developed the Boy Scouts’ Leave No Trace Awareness Award and has himself received the adult version of the Hornaday Medal.

Brooks thinks the twins have a good shot at the Hornaday Medal.

“They are two great young men,” he says. “They’re very focused and very mature for their age, and they seem committed to the concepts of resource conservation.”

Brooks actually knows several members of the national committee in charge of picking the award winners. So he knows what the committee looks for in terms of focus and scope of the boys’ projects and the long-term effects of their efforts.

“Their job is to be leaders in the conservation movement,” he says. “To get people involved and broaden the interest to other scouts.”

Brooks, an Eagle Scout whose two sons were also Eagle Scouts—"We’re a bunch of bird brains, but we enjoy it,” he says—was a scoutmaster himself for 10 years.

“I watched a lot of young boys grow into young men, architects, doctors, Air Force Academy graduates,” he says. “The best part is holidays, when they come home and visit their old scoutmaster.”

Craig, for his part, is intent on making the Truckee River event an annual gathering. But if he or his brother get the coveted Hornaday Award, what will be left for them to achieve as scouts?

“You don’t want to hit your peak at age 12,” I offer. “So what comes next?”

Well, says Jim Hansen, there is always the Congressional Merit Award.

“That’s about 400 hours of service,” he says.

“That’s easy,” says Tim.

“Not for some people,” his dad replies proudly.

“But for you guys …"