by Rob Taylor, Spruce Mountain Envirothon Advisor
This summer, the Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon Team won first-place in Aquatic Ecology and sixth-place overall at the National Conservation Foundation North American Envirothon competition at Idaho State University. Envirothon is North America’s largest environmental science competition and tests students in Aquatics, Soils, Forestry, Wildlife, and “Current Issue”. Spruce Mountain has won 9 of the last 11 Maine Envirothon Championships and has received a great deal of support from ALT, as well as other land trusts and conservation groups, which has helped lead to their success. Rob, Ann and Orion pictured below are also members of ALT’s Community Forest Advisory Committee that helps manage properties in Western Maine.
In 2017, the problem scenario the team was given to solve for the Maine Envirothon was this: “A local land trust has recently acquired a parcel that used to be farmed. The board of directors is looking for volunteers to create guidelines for the use of the land and you volunteer for this group. The land trust wants to bring it back into agricultural production.” The scenario then asked Envirothoners to develop a management plan for the property.
We saw this scenario as a way to work with actual land trusts. Instead of creating a fictional land trust property to manage, our teams connected with ALT and the Foothills Land Conservancy. With assistance from these land trusts, the teams used actual properties as the locations for their projects. By using digital imagery, historical information and data provided by the land trusts, the students projects really came alive.
“The Land Trust work is compatible with a lot of the same ideas the Envirothon team works on. Conservation through a land trust is an excellent way to protect valuable land without limiting public access in most cases” Orion says. Learning about the environment by getting out and exploring has really led to the success of Envirothon students and working with the ALT has been a great experience!