Forest Service Volunteers
The U.S. National Forest Volunteer Program was created through the Volunteers in the National Forest Act of 1972. It states:
- The Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is authorized to recruit, train, and accept without regard to the Civil Service classification laws, rules, or regulations, the services of individuals to serve without compensation. Volunteers may assist in any Forest Service program or activity.
- The National Forest volunteer will not be a federal employee and will not be subject to employment and regulations per se. An agreement will be entered into between the Forest Service and the individual, stating what has been agreed upon.
The U.S. National Forest Volunteer Program has thousands of volunteers who contribute millions of hours of their time to perform various duties, including resource protection, management, forestry, or research. Duties within each of these areas range from administrative to manual labor. Volunteer positions include hosting campgrounds, planting trees, restoring damaged streambeds, conducting interpretive nature walks, writing scripts for visitor tours, and helping with fire protection.
Although volunteers, by definition, are not paid for their work, payment of incidental costs, such as transportation, food, or lodging, is negotiable. Therefore, make sure to express your specific needs clearly during the interview. Expect different field offices as well as individual departments to negotiate differently.
The average length of duty for seasonal volunteers varies. Although the Forest Service gladly accepts dedicated and responsible volunteers for any amount of time, a minimum commitment of six to eight weeks is encouraged. Work hours can range from a few hours a week to full-time.
A volunteer orientation program explains the history of the Forest Service and the volunteer program's objectives, as well as safety procedures. To apply:
- Contact the Forest Service's regional office for the area where you want to work.
- Request Prospective Volunteer Registration Optional Form 301 and/or Volunteer Application for Natural Resources Agencies.
- List as much information as possible to enable the coordinators to match your skills and interests to their needs.
- Make copies.
- Send one copy to each of the offices where you would consider volunteering. Each copy must bear your original signature.
- Wait to be contacted by a volunteer coordinator.