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The Oregon Envirothon was initiated in the spring of 1996 after a meeting between Dick Behm, a retired forest industry manager and an organizer of Washington's Envirothon, and Susie Kelly, the director of the Northwest Center for Sustainable Resources (NCSR). As a result of this meeting, Jon Yoder, Secondary Education Coordinator for NCSR, began planning Oregon's first Envirothon. A committee consisting of natural resource educators and agency personnel met in August. The competition was discussed, and a design was developed.

It was decided that unique student experiences would be developed in an approach where competitors would work through a series of four "ecostations" integrating questions on forests, wildlife, soils, and aquatics. In addition, students would prepare a presentation on an issue determined by Canon Envirothon with the specific question determined by the state committee. The purpose of this approach was to match the field experiences often taught in natural resource or environmental programs in schools with a fun and enjoyable competitive experience. In particular the aim was to draw in urban schools that traditionally did not participate in these types of experiences.

By the spring of 1997, the committee developed materials and questions for the ecostations and presentation along with scoring guides and team preparation materials. Flyers were sent out to each high school in the state and advertisements were posted in several educator publications to solicit participating teams. Volunteers and judges were enlisted, and a site at Western Mennonite School was prepared.
On Saturday, May 17, 1997 Oregon's first Envirothon was held. The five participating teams were North Salem, Sisters, Western Mennonite, South Wasco, and Hidden Valley. North Salem claimed first place.

NCSR leadership and funding for Envirothon ended in 2001 when discussion with Monte Graham, Marion Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), began to continue support of the competition. SWCDs conduct competitions in other states. Graham and Janet Kaestner, also with Marion SWCD, took a leadership role in coordinating the 2001 and 2002 Oregon Envirothons. In 2003 Diane Cheyne began coordinating the competition. To closer match the Canon Envirothon, Oregon Envirothon was changed from an ecostation approach to a site specific approach and the current environmental issue site was added. During the ensuing year Cheyne developed a partnership with Julie Woodward, Oregon Forest Resources Institute and the competition was moved to The Oregon Garden.

Marion SWCD Education Coordinator, Ron Crouse, assumed coordination in 2006. The competition continued to grow and saw a record 32 teams in 2008. In 2009 it was determined that to improve and expand the program, additional support should be sought. Oregon Envirothon became established as a 501(c)(3) domestic nonprofit corporation and began to actively recruit a board of directors, technical advisors and public and private sponsorship. It is hoped that Oregon Envirothon will continue to promote natural resource education well into the future.