SUNY Cortland is new host for New York State Envirothon  

SUNY Cortland is new host for New York State Envirothon  

05/14/2024 

This summer, SUNY Cortland will bring about 300 of the best young scientists from across the state together to compete in solving environmental problems as the new host of the New York State Envirothon. 

Around 50 teams are expected on campus from May 22 to May 23 for the annual competition, which is sponsored by the New York State Soil and Water Conservation District. State winners go on to compete in the National Conservation Foundation Envirothon, which has participants from 44 states and seven Canadian provinces. 

Students will compete in five categories: renewable energy for a sustainable future; aquatic ecology; wildlife forestry; soils; and land use. 

“I hope that they (competitors) see that ’there’s other people of the same mind and that they learn — whether they go into an environmental field or not — about their environment and how they can protect it for the future,” said Blanche Hurlbutt, chair of the New York State Envirothon Committee. 

Hurlbutt, who also is the executive director of the New York Association of Conservation Districts, became involved as a member of the committee 24 years ago and has been its chair for almost a decade.  

The first Envirothon was created in 1979 in Pennsylvania, under the then-name of Environmental Olympics. It was designed as a competition for high school students to encourage interest in natural resource conservation and other environmental issues. New York state joined other competing states in 1990.  

In recent years, the New York Envirothon has been hosted at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. This year, however, Hobart is hosting the national competition and Cortland was selected as its successor as host of the statewide event for at least the next two years. After that, it will be considered among other applications to possibly continue the role.  

Among the biggest reasons Cortland was selected are the central location of the area within the state, its facilities and access to test sites with the varied environments needed for the competition. Those areas are kept secret from the students. 

Todd Malone, director of campus event management, said he would love to see the school become a long-term host for the Envirothon, and that the university’s effort to host the event was in the works even before he began in his position last year.  

Officials from the Envirothon contacted President Erik J. Bitterbaum and Vice President of Finance and Management Mark Yacavone to see if there was interest from Cortland in hosting the event. Yacavone talked with committee members about the use of campus and locations for the different parts of the contest. 

Hurlbutt said that animal pelts, soil pits and streams and plants are among the items the young scientists will use during the competition. Problem-solving and leadership will be key components for successful teams. 

“They’re doing hands-on stuff that they probably have already learned within class, and they’re experiencing it out in the field and seeing it firsthand,” Hurlbutt said. 

It won’t all be hard work on hard data — in the students’ off time there will be an ice cream social, movie and outdoor fun like frisbee and basketball. John Bartow, executive director of the Empire State Forest Product Association, will be a guest speaker at the event.   

Malone believes this is also a new way to highlight campus. Prospective students who may not have considered Cortland before will get to see exactly what the university has to offer. 

To host an event like the Envirothon shortly after Commencement takes a large collaborative effort, Malone added. 

“There are many details that not one office can handle on their own,” he said. “So we rely heavily on good communication amongst all those involved to make sure that the Envirothon Committee is set up for success as soon as they step on to campus.” 

It helps that the school is a partner with New York State Public High School Athletic Association and Cortland Regional Sports Council and has hosted statewide events like the Empire State Senior Games and girls’ lacrosse and soccer championships. 

Students, family and friends coming to Cortland for the Envirothon should check Crown City Rising for recent updates on traffic and summer construction in the city.  

Guests that have questions related to any campus event can reach Campus Event Management by phone at 607-753-5453 or can email the office at events@cortland.edu. 


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