Oregon Envirothon was started in spring of 1996 after a meeting between Dick Behm, a retired forest industry manager and organizer of Washington’s Envirothon, and Susie Kelly director of the Northwest Center for Sustainable Resource (NCSR). As a result, Jon Yoder, Secondary Education Coordinator for NCRS, began planning Oregon’s first Envirothon.
A committee of natural resource educators and agency personnel met in August and the competition was designed. It was decided that student experiences would be developed in an approach where they would work through a series of “ecostations” covering forestry, wildlife, soils, and aquatics. Students would also prepare a presentation on an issue determined by Canon Envirothon (the national affiliate).
The committee developed the materials by spring of 1997 including tests and score guides. Flyers were sent out to each high school in the state and the event was advertised in several publications. Volunteers and judges were enlisted and a site at Western Mennonite School was selected. On May 17, 1997 Oregon held its first Envirothon Competition. Five teams participated including North Salem, Sisters, Western Mennonite, South Wasco, and Hidden Valley. North Salem won the first Oregon Envirothon.
NCRS leadership and funding for Envirothon ended in 2001. Monte Graham of Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District took the effort to organize Oregon Envirothon from there. Graham coordinated the 2001 and 2002 Oregon Envirothon competitions. In 2003, Diane Cheyne took over. To closely match the Canon Envirothon competition, Oregon Envirothon was changed from an ecostation approach to the site specific approach of National Envirothon and the Current Issue Station was added. In 2004 Cheyne started a partnership with Julie Woodward of Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) and the competition was moved to The Oregon Gardens in Silverton, Oregon.
In 2006, Ron Crouse, the Education Coordinator of MSWCD took over as the event coordinator. The competition continued to grow and reached a record 32 teams in 2008. In 2009 it was clear that Oregon Envirothon needed further support to improve and expand so Oregon Envirothon became established as a 501(c)(3) domestic non-profit corporation and recruited a board of directors including Crouse and Woodward.
In 2017, OFRI took over as the primary event coordinator of the competition. In 2018, the board of directors expanded to include Garrett Duyck, an Envirothon alumni and NRCS Conservationist, Grant Pease, also an alumni, Reynold Gardner, of Oregon Department of Education, and Wes Crawford, FFA Advisor of Sutherlin. By the end of 2018 Crouse retired from MSWCD but continued on as a Board Director and volunteer.
In 2020, the outbreak of the COVID19 virus caused many Envirothon programs to cancel their competitions that year. Oregon Envirothon was able to move the competition from the in-person event to online exams. Students were able to send in their oral presentations via video recordings, per usual. Once the event concluded, Julie Woodward retired from a storied tenure on the Board of Directors but continued to support the program as a volunteer.