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Area high school students compete at Envirothon

Woods, trails and lakeshore set the scene for a recent outdoor environmental competition for high school students at Lake Bemidji State Park.

The Area VIII Soil and Water Conservation District's Envirothon drew more than 150 high school students from the region to the park April 23.

"It's kind of like an environmental sciences knowledge bowl," said Corryn Trask, Lake of the Woods SWCD resource technician and Area VIII Envirothon Committee member.

At Envirothon, teams of four or five students visited five 25-minute learning stations presented by natural resources professionals who highlighted forestry, soils, aquatics, wildlife and current events.

"They have to study and learn about all these things because they take tests at each station," said Kathy Loucks, Itasca SWCD office administrator and Area VIII Envirothon Committee member. "They get references ahead of time on each station topic."

Besides studying these topics for the tests, the teams also prepared oral presentations that they gave before a panel of judges at Envirothon. The theme for this year's presentations is "Recreational Impacts on Natural Resources."

For the presentations, the teams received a hypothetical, fictitious scenario in which they represented a group of residents advocating a new recreational trail for off-highway vehicles. As part of the scenario, some people had expressed concerns about the trail's impact on natural resources. In their presentations, the teams had to simulate presenting the trail proposal during a public meeting.

Shawn Linder, who teaches natural resources classes at Grand Rapids High School, said he has been teaching his students about the management triangle for OHV sustainability. The points of the triangle are ecology, economics and people. He said this year's presentation theme allowed them to apply the principles they are learning in the classroom to a real-life scenario.

Linder brought 15 Grand Rapids students to Envirothon.

"Envirothon, to me, is a good mix of diversity as far as the stations," he said.

He said this diversity helps students gain an appreciation for the environment as a whole because "one (area) can't stand without the other."

As Envirothon got underway, Amie Moore, a junior at Walker-Hackensack-Akeley High School, said she was looking forward to getting in touch with the environment.

"Without the environment, you don't really have life so you have to protect it," she said.

DJ Shaver, a junior at Clearbrook-Gonvick School, said he believes Envirothon will have a lasting impact on students.

"I think it will teach kids to appreciate the environment more," he said.

The top three teams from Area VIII's Envirothon -- two teams from Park Rapids Area High School and one team from Lake of the Woods School in Baudette -- advanced to the state competition. Minnesota State Envirothon will be held May 14 in Fergus Falls.

The winner of the state competition will advance to National Canon Envirothon in Flagstaff, Ariz.