Volunteering on federal lands

Park host, tour guide, or just plain grunt, there are may opportunities to volunteer in the special places that RV’s make convenient. There are many agencies, governments, and nonprofit organizations that are seeking volunteers to help them manage, maintain, document, or support their natural resources programs. They provide an opportunity for you to do a bit more than just sightsee in your RV.

Focus on personal goals is perhaps the first issue to consider. Where do you want to be at what time during the year? How much time do you have to volunteer? What sort of facilities will you need? What special skills can you contribute? What limitations do you need on your activities? What experience do you have, how much training will you need, and what is your level of comfort? Do you want to volunteer as a part of a team, as a team leader, or as an independent all by yourself out in the far boonies?

Search the web for the agency that is in charge of areas in the locale you choose. Most states have volunteer coordinators for their state parks. Sometimes parks will have nonprofit organizations whose goal is supporting the park. Don’t be afraid to use the telephone to call these agencies or organizations to find out about volunteer services.

The federal government has one website as a coordinated volunteer opportunities resource in addition to the specific agency volunteer sites. Here are some examples.

Volunteer.gov – “Volunteer.Gov/Gov is a partnership among the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, State of New York Division of Veterans Affairs, the Corporation for National and Community Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S.A. Freedom Corps aimed at providing a single, easy-to-use web portal with information about volunteer opportunities. The site allows you to search for volunteer opportunities by keyword, state, activity, partner, and/or date range.”

The US Fish and Wildlife service says “Our volunteers are individuals who want to give back to their communities, parents who want to be good stewards of the land and set examples for their children, retired people willing to share their wealth of knowledge, concerned citizens of all ages who want to learn more about conservation, and passionate people who enjoy the outdoors and want to spread the word about America’s greatest natural treasures.”

The National Park Service has a rather bare bones search form with a number of broken links.

The BLM Introducing the “America the Beautiful” Volunteer Pass as a volunteer benefit and has a broken link to a 1.6 MB PDF Guide for volunteers. – lots of pretty pictures, though.

The US Army Corps of Engineers Volunteer Clearinghouse “is a nationwide, toll free hotline number for individuals who are interested in volunteering their time with the Corps. By calling the hotline a potential volunteer can express interest in any Corps project nationwide. The Clearinghouse in turn, gives the individual a point of contact for the area they have requested, as well as written information about volunteer opportunities there.”

Jobs Monkey has some good information and links to volunteer opportunities at government agencies and nonprofit companies. They also have some good information on volunteering. See the page on Forest Service Passport in Time (PIT) Volunteer Program, for instance if you are interested in “work with professional archaeologists and historians on projects including archaeological excavation, rock art restoration, survey, archival research, historic structure restoration, gathering oral histories, or writing interpretive brochures.”

In searching for other volunteer sites on the internet, try using the name of the park or area and the word volunteer as key words. “oregon state park” volunteer, for instance, yielded Oregon State Parks and Recreation: Department Administration …. Do a bit of looking around and you will learn a lot about opportunities and how you, too, can make your RV experience more valuable and more important.

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