On September 1st, a local student was announced as the EPA President’s Environmental Youth Award winner.
Spencer Jackson Burke of Dallas won the award in the category of 6-12 graders in the EPA Region 6. Along with other honorary young adults, Spencer was recognized for his exceptional work preserving pollinators around Dallas.
The EPA President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) has been a tradition since 1970, with the establishment of the Environmental Education Act. The PEYA aims to support smaller-scale, community-led programs that help impact the surrounding area in a big way. Other winners took on projects such as persuading local stores to conserve food waste and promoting the use of LED bulbs.
Spencer’s interest in pollination was kindled many years prior. He was inspired by a Dr. Who episode, “Stolen Earth,” which depicts the chaos that follows when all the bees leave the earth. Spencer, who is now a 12th-grader at St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas, realized the importance of pollinators and dedicated countless hours to researching declining populations and volunteering.
With permission from the City of Dallas, Spencer led a work project to build over 100 individual solitary bee nesting boxes and place them throughout the metroplex. Soon enough, he had a team of over 100 volunteers assisting with the efforts.
At a five-acre park in the center of Dallas, Spencer and a crew of volunteers removed 45 contractor bags of invasive plants over 300 hours of labor. In the place of the invasive plants, native ones were planted.
Spencer was also the only youth selected to be a Trail Captain for the local Northaven Trail. In this position, he removed trash daily as he walked a one-mile stretch of trail. Later, Spencer collaborated with a Texas Master Naturalist from the Connemara Conservancy to raise and release 300 Northern Bobwhite Quails at Oak Point Nature Preserve.
To help with these bold projects, Spencer has received three national grants. In addition to being an inspiration for many at such a young age, he won the Boy Scouts of America William T. Hornaday Silver Medal for his efforts.