ALLEGANY - Randolph Central School's Team 1 took first place in the 2013 Cattaraugus County Envirothon, held recently at Allegany State Park.
Led by adviser Pat Walker, Randolph will now advance to represent Cattaraugus County at the 2013 New York State Envirothon in Morrisville on May 30-31. Ellicottville Central's Team 2 placed second, and Allegany-Limestone Central's Team 1 placed third, trailing Ellicottville by only one point. Cattaraugus-Little Valley, the 2012 county champion, came in fourth place, trailing the third-place team by only one point.
In all, 13 teams representing eight schools participated in the 22nd Cattaraugus County Envirothon. The other participating schools included Franklinville, Hinsdale, Pioneer and West Valley. In all, more than 70 high school students competed in the program.
Front row, from left are Brian Davis, Cattaraugus County Soil & Water Conservation District manager; Megan Steward; Taryn Dechow and Wes Sluga. Back row, from left, are Jeff Andrews, Andrew Hvizdzak and Pat Walker, team adviser.
The Envirothon is the largest conservation education program in North America, and begins at the local level with several schools from each county competing to advance to a statewide and ultimately a continent-wide event. The Cattaraugus County Envirothon is organized by the Cattaraugus County Soil & Water Conservation District.
The Envirothon is an outdoor, hands-on event that emphasizes teamwork, with each participating school sending up to two five-member teams of high school students. The teams compete to test their knowledge of various natural resource related topics, including wildlife, forestry, soils, aquatics and a current issue topic, which for 2013 was Sustainable Rangeland Management. The current issue topic is chosen by the state that hosts the North American Envirothon, which will be held in Montana this year.
The teams work together to complete exams at five different stations that address these subjects. They may be required to identify various species of trees, wildlife and fish that are available on display and answer specific questions about habitat and other environmental issues related to the species. They may also test a water sample for pH or use a soil survey report to evaluate the soils on a given site. An oral presentation on the current issues topic is rated as part of the score at the current issues station. Scores for the five exams are totaled, and the team with the highest cumulative score wins the competition.
The Cattaraugus County Soil and Water Conservation District pulls together more than 25 volunteers including individuals, as well as representatives from various agencies, organizations and companies, including the U.S. Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service; state Dept. of Environmental Conservation; Allegany State Park; several Cattaraugus County agencies including the Youth Bureau and Public Works; and Trout Unlimited.
Funding is provided entirely from contributions received from many local businesses and organizations. Gernatt Asphalt and Sallie Mae Foundation were primary sponsors of the program in 2013. Contributions are used for providing prizes, T-shirts, reference materials and refreshments for the participants, as well as reserving the site and sending the winning team to the state competition.
"2013 was another successful year for the Cattaraugus County Envirothon," said Brian Davis, conservation district field manager and Envirothon coordinator. "The students worked hard together in a team environment, which will give them valuable experience when they pursue their chosen careers. The dedication and support of our committee, our local sponsors, and our schools all make the program a great success each and every year."