Have you heard of Envirothon? It is a high school environmental science competition in existence since the 1980s as a Bradford County-wide, Pennsylvania state-wide, nation-wide and North America-wide event.
Envirothon is designed to expose high school students to environmental issues and natural resource management solutions critical to their own community’s social, environmental and economic prosperity. Every year, roughly 15,000 students participate at the county level Envirothon contest within Pennsylvania alone, and over 325 students representing each one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties compete to win the title of Pennsylvania state Envirothon champion. On the international level, thousands more represent every state or province within the U.S. and Canada, with one five-member student team from one state or province continent-wide, eventually emerging as the Envirothon North American Grand Champion!
While competing at the local county, state or international Envirothon contest, teams of five high school students are evaluated through a combination of field-testing scenarios, oral presentation components, and identification and general knowledge components within the broad natural resource topic themes of forestry, aquatics, wildlife and soils; as well as a current environmental issue station test that changes from year to year. Environmental professionals from county, state and federal agencies such as county conservation districts, PA Game Commission, PA Fish and Boat Commission, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PA Department of Environmental Protection, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Penn State University and some private companies all play important roles in helping to develop each station’s testing topic questions and research materials provided to participants throughout the school year in advance of the competition. Local, state and national competition sponsors also provide prizes and cash used to reward the top scoring teams at each competition level.
You might be wondering how and why so many people all over North America are investing so much time, money and resources into a simple science competition called the ‘Envirothon’? To answer that question, all one must do is notice the daunting natural resource problems that remain unsolved for our state and our nation. Thousands or millions of jobs across the continent and billions of dollars in products, goods and services annually depend on healthy forests, productive agricultural soils and lands, clean water and thriving wildlife populations.
Unfortunately, threats to the productivity and continued existence of these critical resources have in some ways, never been greater. Invasive insects and plants from other continents like the emerald ash borer, spotted lantern fly, hemlock wooly edelgid, tree of heaven, Japanese knotweed and countless others are threatening to wipe out entire agricultural industries and natural systems across the state, along with the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of annual PA lumber product revenues.
Unprecedented rainfall and subsequent flooding across much of the commonwealth over the past decade have resulted in millions of dollars in property damages and the loss of massive amounts of fertile topsoil needed by farmers to grow healthy crops. At the same time, degraded, dirty, polluted water in our streams and rivers threatens the very survival of many species of fish and other aquatic life who call those places home.
Serious, incurable wildlife diseases such as chronic wasting disease, have the potential to threaten the population, health and long-term vitality of animals such as the white-tailed deer and elk which bring in millions of dollars in tourism and recreation revenues needed to improve habitat and manage forests.
We need the next generation of young North American citizens to be aware of the irreplaceable value of their natural resources, along with a good foundation of how and why it is so important that they use and manage those resources wisely over time. Difficult natural resource related problems now and in the future, will continue to need innovative solutions from intelligent, well-informed citizens, and the Envirothon program provides a platform to help make that happen.
Congratulations to the 2019 Bradford County Envirothon champions from Canton High School! The Canton High team went on to place 36th in the PA competition on May 21-22 at the University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown. If you are interested in learning more about the Envirothon program and how to get involved, please contact Dan Rhodes, Education Coordinator with the Bradford County Conservation District.
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.