WARRENSBURG -- The Hadley-Luzerne team of Briana Dalaba, Ashley Leemans, Kaitlyn Ashline and Megan Tracy huddled over the Soil Survey of Warren County, looking for the type of soil that would be best suited for a landfill.
They were working on one of the multiple-choice questions posed on the topic of soils in the 20th Envirothon, a hands-on environmental competition, hosted Wednesday by Warren County Soil & Water Conservation District.
Representatives of Up Yonda, the Department of Environmental Conservation, Lake George Association, Soil & Water Conservation and Natural Resources Conservation Service served as proctors for the daylong event that pits area schools against each other to test students’ knowledge.
About 85 students tackled topics such as wildlife, soils, aquatics and forestry, at stations set up at the Warren County Fish Hatchery. They were also quizzed on one current events subject, which this year was sustainable rangeland management.
Laurel Gailor of Cornell Cooperative Extension said the topic was decided by hosts of the national Envirothon, which will be held at Montana State University in Bozeman. She believes local students should be aware of management techniques in other parts of the country.
“Rangeland management is a very key thing, whether it’s for grazing, livestock or the environment. It’s usually in areas that there isn’t a lot of precipitation in the summertime so they have to manage for other species,” Gailor said.
Ashline’s teammates were depending on her to help them score well in the rangeland management category. Ashline, a junior, moved to the Hadley-Luzerne area last year from Fountain, Colorado. She not only learned about rangeland management in her biology class, but experienced it by living there.
“You learn grazing for the farms in the countryside but I’ve also been through the mountains and seen all the wildlife they have up there,” Ashline said.
Soil & Water’s district manager, Jim Lieberum, a veteran of about 15 envirothons, said he has seen an increase in the number of participating Warren County schools. Ecology, conservation and forest management have been pushed to the forefront of the national discussion, he said. The overall goal for the program is to make students aware of career opportunities available to them.
“Fifteen or 20 years ago, when this started, you didn’t have a lot of students thinking about SUNY Morrisville or Cobleskill or environmental forestry school. This opens their eyes to science and conservation activities and curriculums that are out there,” Lieberum said.
No local team has ever advanced to the national Envirothon but some have made it to the state level and finished in the top 15, Lieberum said.
Hadley-Luzerne adviser Anne Green said one of her teams placed 13th out of 57 about seven years ago. It’s tough to beat the “dynasty” schools in Tioga and Cayuga counties, she said.
Regardless of who wins the competition, Lieberum was excited that 18 teams turned out to compete.
“The teachers have really bought into this event,” he said, “and the students are very enthusiastic about coming here.”