Government Volunteer Programs

All of the federal bureaus that manage lands like NPS, BLM and USFS have amazing opportunities open to individuals who want to become a part of a group of people who love working outdoors and making a difference. Like all parts of the government, these agencies are always under pressure to make budget cuts and do more work with fewer resources.

Because of this, the government agencies rely heavily on volunteers. Volunteers often work side-by-side with full- time employees and gain the same wonderful experience. They also have the additional benefit of pride in a job well done.

Volunteers are often thought of as good will ambassadors for the departments for which they volunteer. They get to see firsthand the work that is being done all over the nation to protect and preserve our parks, forests, streams, rivers, deserts, glaciers and other natural outdoor areas. The only area of service that volunteers normally cannot join is law enforcement, because of the specialized training that’s required. When volunteers spread the word about what is being done, it often inspires others to volunteer and forge their own experiences while helping our planet at the same time.

All the bureaus employ volunteers in varying degrees, and they all have volunteer programs of some sort. If you’re considering volunteering with a government parks or land management program, spend some time getting familiar with them all so you can choose the one that’s the best fit for you.

Did You Know? Many of the full-time positions are held by individuals who started as volunteers and interns. Just goes to show, when your heart is in the right place, happiness will follow you.

Volunteering With the U.S. Forest Service and U.S.D.A. Forest Service

Each year the U.S. Forest Service works with an average of 80,000 volunteers who help out with a wide range of projects. Together they accumulate about 4.2 million hours of volunteer work annually doing things like resource protection, forestry work, research for one of the many ongoing scientific projects in the parks, helping out with administrative duties and more. On average, volunteers will commit to working six weeks, but you can commit to more or less in order to accommodate your own schedule. The agencies are so grateful for the help that you will most likely never get turned away.

The USDA FS also has the passport in time (PIT) volunteer program for individuals interested in our nation’s history and archaeology. Volunteers work alongside professional historians and archeologists at excavation sites, doing digs and other important jobs like curating the artifacts that are found.
Depending on the area, both FS departments try to provide housing and food for volunteers, but this is not always the case.

Volunteering with the National Park Service (NPS)

The NPS volunteer program brings in thousands of volunteers every year, usually during the summer months. Volunteers with the NPS can be involved with trail maintenance, research, conservation, firefighting and more.

Volunteering with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

Like the other bureaus, the BLM loves to hire volunteers who can help out with ongoing projects. Most BLM volunteers will build trails, greet visitors, plant trees and sometimes help with surveying the land. The BLM is known to help volunteers with travel, and sometimes food expenses.

Volunteering with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Volunteer opportunities with the USFWS might have you stocking fish or tagging animals, or counting animals and birds. Often these volunteer opportunities are more involved with wildlife than the others, but not always. The USFWS also does many public programs to get local communities involved with their mission.

Did You Know? Most volunteer applications are available on the Internet. You can download them, fill them out and submit them all online.

To get more information on these amazing government volunteer opportunities, you can start with the Internet. If you want more information, don’t be afraid to call or stop by a local park.

Government Volunteer Programs Summary:

  • The government relies on volunteers like you to help protect and preserve our nation’s forests and wildlife.
  • All four government bureaus that manage lands welcome volunteers to help.
  • Different bureaus offer different types opportunities based on what their focus is.
  • Some provide housing and food to volunteers, while some help with travel costs. Check postings for more information.
  • Volunteers work with full-time employees and help to make a greater impact so that generations to come can enjoy our natural resources.


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