A Del Rio teen was recently awarded Texas Environmental Excellence Awards winner in the individual category, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced.
Benjamin Rawald, a senior at Brackett High School, recognized that milkweed is both critical to the survival of monarchs and declining due to use of glyphosate herbicides, the agency announced in its web site.
In response to what he saw as a critical situation, Rawald teamed up with a professor at Sul Ross University to design easy-to-distribute milkweed seed-balls.
Working with over 400 youth from all over two counties, Rawald coordinated the planting of over 175,000 seeds over 1,900 acres, covering a linear distance of 39 miles. He single-highhandedly managed the project logistics, including reaching out to and gaining permission from landowners to plant milkweed seeds on private property.
Community outreach and involvement are critical to this ongoing project. Not only has planting milkweed increased the number of migrating monarch butterflies, but the project has also changed the community’s opinion on milkweed from “toxic weed” to “pollinating wildflower.” Rawald does agree that the land owners do need to consider animal life, especially in ranching areas when planting milkweed. “Milkweeds are not a short term investment,” Rawald stated. “Both the present and future use of the land should be considered carefully before planting —as it takes three full years for the plant to mature into seed.”
Rawald is also an Eagle Scout who has completed every merit badge the Scout and Venturing programs offer. For his extensive work in conservation, he received the William T. Hornaday Silver Medal, scouting’s highest conservation award.
The Hornaday award requires four significant conservation projects and Rawald decided to focus on plastic bag and toner recycling, wetlands reclamation, and found a potential solution to the declining number of monarch butterflies migrating through Val Verde and Kinney counties.