Volunteer to preserve natural resources in my community
USDA has a deep commitment to the conservation of natural resources. Two of its agencies, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the United States Forest Service, are particularly focused on the stewardship and protection of natural resources. In the section below, you can find information on some of the many volunteer opportunities that are available through these agencies.
Earth Team Volunteer Program
The Earth Team expands NRCS services by using volunteer time and talent to help accomplish the NRCS mission. The mission of NRCS is to ensure compliance with Agency policies for conservation and equal opportunity programs, and accountability for the delivery of quality and timely services to our customers. Since 1982, approximately 428,000 Earth Team volunteers donated more than 13 million hours of service. In fiscal year 2008, NRCS had 31,662 volunteers who served 812,404 hours. Contact: Michele Eginoire; 515- 289-0325, ext. 102; firstname.lastname@example.org
Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services (ACES) Program
This newly authorized program, from the 2008 Farm Bil1, is similar to a volunteer program except workers have to be 55 years or older and they receive wages. A key feature of ACES is that retired employees (including from Federal government) can participate in the program and earn wages without impact to their retirement annuities. NRCS launched a three-year demonstration project in 2005 to develop procedures and processes to carry out a cost-effective ACES program. More than 300 enrollees participated in the demonstration project.
Congress authorized the ACES Program in Section 1252, Subtitle F of Title XII of the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended by the 2008 Farm Bill. The purpose of ACES is to use the talents of individuals, who are age 55 or older, but not employees of USDA or a State agriculture agency to provide technical services in support of the conservation-related programs and authorities carried out by the Secretary of Agriculture. All NRCS offices throughout the States, National Headquarters (NHQ), and Centers can participate in the ACES Program. Efforts are underway to permit the use of ACES throughout USDA.
The ACES Program provides a cost-effective opportunity to obtain the services of experienced workers age 55 or older on a temporary basis through an agreement with eligible non-profit organizations. ACES enrollees are not federal employees, cannot perform inherently governmental work, and wages earned do not impact retirement annuities. We currently have approximately 250 ACES enrollees.
Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) YCC is a Forest Service-conducted program for youth aged 15 to 18 years who typically work on crews for 8 weeks in the summer on a broad range of conservation projects, and may also work in offices and on other types of assignments. We also partner with other organizations to create "hosted" YCC-type crews. Currently, more than 900 youth experience a summer's worth of conservation work annually. In the past, the Forest Service typically trained approximately 11,000 students annually.
Individual and Sponsored programs provide volunteers an opportunity to become involved with their public lands, give back to their community and country, participate in service learning, and help the Forest Service care for the land and serve people. Volunteers may work individually or with a group. Groups serving in this capacity include the Retired Senior Volunteers , Audubon Society, and many others. Individual and group-sponsored volunteers receive no pay, yet over 70,000 volunteers contribute more than 3.4 million of hours each year in all branches of the agency.
Senior Programs have a special place in the Forest Service. In previous years, the Senior Community Service Program
(SCSEP) was administered by the Forest Service through a grant from the Department of Labor. This program flourished for thirty years, benefiting economically disadvantaged seniors and the agency. Today, the Forest Service remains strongly committed to the spirit of the SCSEP program, and continues to host SCSEP participants in partnership with non-profit organizations. Additionally, the Forest Service is actively pursuing partnerships to directly employ seniors as authorized in the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill).
Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (CCCs)
The Forest Service operates 22 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in partnership with the U. S. Department of Labor. Job Corps was created in 1964 by the Economic Opportunity Act, modeled after the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, an emergency relief program that provides, room, board, and employment to thousands of unemployed young people. The Job Corps program has turned around the lives of thousands of at-risk young people by providing education, training and a connection to our lands through resource conservation. Annually, the Centers train 5,000-7,000 students who want to learn the social and academic skills needed to start careers. Students aged 16 through 24 who meet the economic criteria may obtain a high school or a general equivalency diploma and vocational training, primarily in a residential setting. Courses include cement masonry, welding, clerical skills, painting, carpentry, bricklaying, food service and culinary arts, forestry, and other skills.
Passport in Time is a volunteer archaeology and historic preservation program. Over the years, volunteers have helped the Forest Service stabilize ancient cliff dwellings in New Mexico, excavate a 10,000-year-old village site in Minnesota and a 19th century Chinese mining site in Hell's Canyon in Idaho, restore a historic lookout tower in Oregon, and clean vandalized rock art in Colorado.
Volunteer Fire Assistance is a program in which the Forest Service provides technical and financial assistance to local communities - through the States - to protect State and private forestlands threatened by wildfire. Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) is for communities with populations of fewer than 10,000 individuals. Through this program, the Forest Service provides support to respond to natural and human-caused disasters in rural America. In FY 2009, the Forest Service's VFA program will provide financial assistance to approximately 4,100 volunteer fire departments in rural communities. The actual number of volunteer fire departments assisted and the type of work that is accomplished depends on project selection, which is decided by each State. In FY 2008, the Forest Service provided Volunteer Fire Assistance funding to 5,591 communities. The funding helped with the training of over 10,000 firefighters; the organization or expansion of more than 100 fire departments; and the purchase, rehabilitation, and maintenance of over $4 million dollars of equipment.
National Forest Foundation (NFF) Creating a community of people who care about the National Forests and Grasslands is an important aspect of the National Forest Foundation's mission. Friends of the Forest is a program through the National Forest Foundation that empowers people to care for our National Forests through giving, volunteering, and enjoying unforgettable outdoor experiences. Friends of the Forest have shown their enthusiasm and commitment to their favorite National Forests and Grasslands through participation in numerous Friends of the Forest Days. In 2007, over 1,400 volunteers--adults and youth-- helped restore trails and streams, spread native seeds, and pulled weeds at 34 events on 20 National Forests and Grasslands in 14 states.