Gila National Forest Black Range Ranger District provided support to the Envirothon program at both local and state levels this April.
In addition to providing educational opportunities, Gila personnel acted as judges for oral presentation practices, and provided a driver/volunteer and judge for the 2017 Envirothon New Mexico competition. The state hands-on, environmental problem-solving competition was held April 21–23 at El Porvenir Christian Camp in the Santa Fe National Forest.
The 2017 New Mexico State Champions, the Scat Cats from Truth or Consequences, outscored 12 other teams and were coached by Mark Hedge, the biology teacher at Hot Springs High School and a Gila National Forest fire lookout. The Scat Cats will join other first place teams from each state, and Canadian Provinces, and advance to the seven-day National Envirothon, which will be held in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
The North American Envirothon, with cooperating federal natural resource agencies including the Forest Service, is a competition involving over 500,000 high school students. Teams of five compete in hands-on outdoor tests of their knowledge of soils/land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife and current environmental issues. An oral presentation follows, in which teams are given a complex land management problem to solve. Students must rely on preparation and teamwork, as no additional resources can be used once the problem is given. Students then present their proposal to a panel of judges and are scored on preparation of plan, application of data and quality of presentation.
Many of the competing students go on to careers in the Forest Service and other land management agencies. Cooperator programs like this ensure a passionate and knowledgeable next generation to address the complex issues facing our agency.