On the Job: Seasonal BLM Volunteering

Glennda Sutton spent a summer volunteering for the Bureau of Land Management as a river ranger on the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River near Fort Benton, Montana.

Our primary job is visitor contact with the boaters. We get a lot of first-time canoeists here, so we talk to them to find out how long they’re going to be here and gather other information on them that the BLM likes to have.

We also make sure they have their life jackets, have enough water, know where they can camp, and where they can stop. That’s the most important thing we do.

We also get to canoe downriver and camp at the sites. We clean up the campsites and pick up people’s lost items. If there is severe weather or storms we go out and warn people. We also manage three campsites. We take turns going out on the river on the weekends, and one of us always stays at a campsite. While there, we talk to the campers, show them where the phones are, tell them how we can help them out, and gather data on the visitors for the agency.

I heard about this job from a friend of mine who did it last year and who is here again this year. The job is posted at a lot of the job boards at schools. The main thing they look for here are people who have the ability to talk to people and gather data.

I’m a wildlife biology major at the University of Montana in Missoula, and I also have a background in communications. (NOTE – visit JobMonkey’s Animal Jobs section if this line of work is of interest to you.) This is the first job like this I’ve had. I think my communications background is what got me the job. I’ve had a lot of jobs where dealing with the public was the biggest part of the position. Even just working in a store will help you get a job like this. That’s a big help if you’re looking for a job with the public, especially recreation management jobs. A background in communications is invaluable. The most important thing we do is to be pleasant and help visitors enjoy their trips.

My favorite part about the job is getting to spend the whole summer outdoors. It’s great to get to canoe and camp every day.

We do get a stipend and a place to live, so in a sense they are paying me to do what other people would pay a lot of money to do.

The biggest challenge of this job is dealing with people who are not satisfied. You’re dealing with weather and wildlife here, and you can’t necessarily control that. So people sometimes are upset because things haven’t gone right. We try to make their stay a little bit more pleasant.

Another nice thing about this job is that besides our regular duties we can volunteer to do other projects that the BLM is working on. For example, they are working on a new trail interpretation so we get to help write a pamphlet. There is also a possibility we’ll get to help do a study on bats and go spelunking. Everything I do here is one more thing to put on my resume. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

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