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Environment




Bureau of Land Management Domain Administrator in Montana Repairs Trails With Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation

I volunteered with the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service. A group of 18 individuals came together on the Lolo Motor Trail from August 1 to August 8, 2009. This group brushed eight miles of the historic Lewis and Clark Trail, repaired and refurbished three outhouses, painted two three-panel signs and replaced two missing signs and posts. I led one of the four-person teams for the week. This was a fun but tiring and wet week.

 - Daniel Boss, bureau domain administrator, BLM, Great Falls, Mont.


National Park Service Volunteer Program Manager in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Volunteers Monthly to Pick Up Litter Along Mountain Highway

Approximately once a month on my days off, I walk the road shoulders of Mulholland Highway within Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, picking up litter over a four-mile distance. Mulholland Highway is a scenic corridor that winds its way through the Santa Monica Mountains, often cutting through or passing alongside numerous public parklands on its way to the Pacific Ocean. I always find a ride to drop me off at my starting point so I can begin to work my way back to my park residence in the mountains. Stuffing the leg pockets of my cargo pants with trashbags, a litter grabber in hand and wearing a bright orange safety vest I cross back and forth from shoulder to shoulder picking up everything from cigarette butts to body parts from cars. By journey's end I often fill three to four trash bags. A maintenance employee who travels the highway home usually picks the bags up for me. The personal reward, beyond a litter-free highway, is the solitude and quiet of walking an isolated stretch of road that cuts through one of the most scenic sections of Mulholland Highway and seeing all the little things one misses when moving all too quickly in a car. Oh yes, its also a means to getting a bit of healthy exercise and some fresh air after too many days of sitting in my office in front of a computer screen. After all I became a park ranger to enjoy the great outdoors once in a while.

 - Mike Malone, manager, Volunteer Program, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, NPS, Thousand Oaks, Calif.


Lincoln Home National Historic Site’s ‘Growing Forward 2009’ Improves Landscaping at Visitor Center, Builds Park’s Relationship With Springfield, Ill., Community Volunteers

As a result of Lincoln Home National Historic Site receiving the 2009 Midwest Region Park Steward Program Grant, its volunteer program, “Growing Forward in 2009 ,” was a monumental success. The program provides volunteer opportunities for the local Springfield, Ill., community to help improve landscaping around the park’s visitor center. In all, 44 first-time volunteers at the park invested a 148 hours into the project. On June 8, 2009, 28 high-school students from the Future Farmers of America chapter in Piasa, Ill., completed the initial preparation for the event. During that day they removed unwanted plants from the planting areas and prepped the area by removing other debris and securing weed matting.

The main event took place on June 20, 2009, and began in the visitor center at 8:30 a.m. with volunteer registration and distribution of personal-protective equipment. Once all volunteers arrived, the event officially started with a welcome-and-safety message from event coordinator Michael McPeek. Youth involved in the project then joined adult-led work groups, and the planting began. Volunteers worked for four hours on improving the visitor center’s exterior landscaping. During that time, they planted 75 plants and mulched around in the area on the north side of the park’s visitor center. Afterward, volunteers enjoyed a catered pizza lunch, thanks in part to Eastern National’s donation of $100 and Gary and Donna Schechter’s donation of $50 worth of food.

In the end “Growing Forward in 2009” not only helped improve park facilities but also helped reinforce our community relationships. The program helped us to reach our underserved audiences by growing our relationship with the Springfield Urban League and local volunteers for future volunteer programs and projects.


- By Michael Q. McPeek, park guide, Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield, Ill.


National Park Service Technician in Brimley, Mich., Participates Yearly in Hiawatha National Forest Clean-up

After reading the e-mail, "United We Serve," I really felt the need to share my volunteering experiences:

Each year, my family and I always participate in the Hiawatha National Forest Clean-up. We hunt, gather berries, fish, dirt bike and snowmobile in both of the Hiawatha National Forests, located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Because we like to use the land year round, we also like to contribute back to it by picking up garbage. There were a few years where we would work on very few locations, due to the massive size of their dump piles. Thankfully, with the help of our neighbors, we've been able to remove these large piles of trash and move around into different and much smaller locations each year. It's really nice to see the event draw in more and more participants each year. 

Its fun coming out to work with your neighbors for a good cause. Especially when you don't have to drive by the garbage in the woods while you're enjoying the scenery. I believe everyone has the time to go out and volunteer for something in which they believe. For instance, I also volunteer as a mentor for the Boys and Girls Club of Bay Mills, Mich., and for my local church. I really believe everyone has a talent or gift they can give to the community, because it truly does feel better to give than to receive. 

People of all ages have something they can contribute to their local community; my grandparents would participate in the Hiawatha National Forest Clean-up. Even though they couldn't go out in the woods to pick up, they would stay back at the home site and prepare the coffee, snacks, sign anyone else up and hand out maps, T-shirts, hats, gloves, garbage bags, along with instructions on handling hazardous trash.

I feel a much greater sense of accomplishment each time I volunteer. Everyone should be able to feel that, so my advice is to go out and volunteer for you and your community.

- Julie Timmer, administrative technician, Pendills Creek National Fish Hatchery, Brimley, Mich.


Employees From U.S. Geological Survey's Montana Water Science Center Volunteer to Plan, Clear Trails, Operate Aid Stations for Elkhorn Endurance Run

Personnel from the USGS Montana Water Science Center participated on the planning committee, conducted USDA Forest Service trail clearing and operated an aid station for the Elkhorn 50-mile endurance run. USGS personnel Fred Bailey, Kyle Blasch, James Pollard and Stephen Astier volunteered approximately 80 hours to help make the races successful.

- Kyle Blasch, assistant director, USGS, Helena, Mont.


Eighty-Year-Old Volunteer in Colorado in 15th Year as Park Volunteer

I have been a volunteer in national parks for 15 years now and have put in 10,000 hours volunteering in Rocky Mountain National Park, helping to preserve and protect the Wilderness in Rocky. At 80 years of age I no longer engage in outside activities, but I still am working for the park.

- Rob Ludlum, volunteer, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colo.


Bureau of Land Management Employee in Cheyene, Wyo., Leads, Educates on Hike at State Park

I volunteered to help lead and educate on a hike at a state park during a promotional weekend (lots of other activities going on).

- Adrienne Pilmanis, plant-conservation lead and science coordinator, BLM, Cheyenne, Wyo.


National Park Superintendent in Colorado and His Daughter Clear Trails, Clean Campsites in the Holy Cross Wilderness

My 13-year-old daughter, Molly, and I volunteered in the Holy Cross Wilderness, White River National Forest, Colorado. There we cleared trails and cleaned campsites for four days with one of my former Student Conservation Association interns, Carol Burlingame, who is now a USDA Forest Service wilderness ranger.

- Donald E. Briggs, superintendent, Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, NPS, Harpers Ferry, W.Va 


Office of the Solicitor Employee in Boulder, Colo., Helps Civic Organization Hold Fishing Tournament for Kids

For the past two years, I have been a member of the Boulder Fish and Game Club, a volunteer civic organization located in Boulder, Colo. The club celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. Every year during Memorial Day weekend, we hold a kids' fishing tournament at the Evert Pierson Kids' Fishing Ponds adjacent to Boulder Creek. We award kids up to the age of 12 with prizes for the biggest fish they catch. The club raises the fish in its hatchery, which is tucked away in downtown Boulder. The water for the hatchery comes from a nearby artesian spring, which was the water source for an early Boulder brewery. We drain and clean out the ponds every year. After draining the ponds and prior to opening the head gate to allow water from Boulder Creek to flow into the ponds, we spend a Saturday raking out debris and muck from the banks of the ponds. This spring I donned my waders and participated in streamside cleanup and restoration efforts as part of my membership duties. I also assisted with the kids' fishing tournament.

The premier volunteer opportunity of the year is coming up. Every year after Labor Day, the club receives fingerling rainbow trout from the Colorado Division of Wildlife. We place the trout into pressure-sealed containers and pack them into high mountain lakes mostly located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. We release the trout into the lakes, where, with luck, they will thrive and form the backbone for reproducing populations for years to come. Every year, we choose different lakes to receive the trout. Historically, these lakes did not hold trout. Without our efforts, the lakes today would be empty of trout. I was unable to participate last year, so this year will be my first trip packing in trout.

- Tyson Powell, Office of the Solicitor, Boulder, Colo.


Bureau of Land Management Natural Resource Specialist in Washington, D.C., Engages Youth, Public as Living History Interpreter at C&O National Historic Park

This summer I am volunteering as a living history interpreter with the Department of the Interior's C&O Canal Historical Park. I work with the mules and on the barge. When the call went out to volunteer under the United We Serve campaign, I began to look for opportunities to work outdoors. As an animal scientist and natural-resource specialist by degree and experience, I wanted something to do with livestock or wildlife. I was thrilled to find an opportunity in Washington, D.C., to work with mules! And get to dress up in 1850's historical dress! I have volunteered for several months; and although the work is very physically demanding, I just love it. My favorite part is introducing the mules to the public and educating them about the animals and life on the canal in the 1800's. At first many children are scared or timid of the large mules. But as I bring the mules up for the children to pet and tell them the names of the mules, I see their eyes fill with wonder and joy. We have a lot of foreign tourists who never expected to see mules in D.C., and they truly enjoy the C&O Historic Park. I feel this job gives me an opportunity to teach respect and concern for animals and also a chance to act as a positive ambassador for my country. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to volunteer in a position that provides so much enjoyment to others and to me.

- Kathy Gunderman, natural-resource specialist, BLM 


Alaska Volunteer Teaching Leadership, Outdoor Skills to Area Youth as Boy Scout Troop Scoutmaster

The current economic downturn and challenges of raising a family in the 21st century has an impact on young boys. Family separations, divorces, loss of parent employment, and just the transition from a boy to a young adult are faced by boys across America. I am proud to help many of those boys in Fairbanks, Alaska, become productive citizens as adults. Read More  

Being a Boy Scout Troop scoutmaster provides me an opportunity to lend a hand, share an encouraging word, and yes, give necessary advice. It is a year-round volunteer position with many rewards. This past summer our troop spent a week at summer camp and a week long camping adventure in addition to monthly weekend camping trips. Our weekly meetings give the boys some time to practice their leadership skills and blow off some steam playing games and learning outdoor skills with their fellow scouts.

Our scouts have helped take an empty railroad depot and turn into a meeting place for the troop, as well as local bands, a Cub Scout pack, and charity groups. They also planted and maintained the flower and garden beds at the depot. With donated cedar lumber they made flower boxes, planted plants within them and anonymously gave them to homes in the neighborhood. Slowly but surely they are turning an empty building into a neighborhood asset. Their next community service project will be to repair cracks and potholes in local bike trails.

I hesitated to share my volunteer efforts with Scouting, but knowing that the goals of Scouting align so closely with many of your Department's goals I had to. The growing needs of young boys need our full attention.

- Vince Mathews , regional coordinator: Eastern Interior, Western Interior and Coordinating Committees for the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers, Fairbanks, Alaska


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.Wa., Holds Volunteer Events to Pull More Than 700 Pounds of Invasive Plants

In relation to President Obama's United We Serve initiative, Secretary Salazar might be interested to know about our volunteer invasive plant pulls at the National Conservation Training Center this past spring.  

The NCTC property is heavily infested with garlic mustard, so we held a couple of volunteer activities to engage conservation professionals in hand pulling this highly invasive plant. Spring is the best time to pull garlic mustard because that's when it flowers, and we want to prevent the flowers from maturing and distributing seed. A single plant can produce thousands of seeds, which could mean thousands of new plants emerging the following year.  In two separate events, 35 volunteers pulled 725 pounds of garlic mustard in 60.5 volunteer hours:

April 23, 2009: As part of the NCTC course, "Invasive Plant Management Techniques," 27 students and volunteers pulled a total of 484 pounds of garlic mustard in 1.5 hours. We divided up into five groups to see who could pull the most garlic mustard. The names of groups were Violet Pullers, Gar-Lickers, Ferc N' Wild, Mustard Plasters, Gregarious Garlic Grabbers. The total number of volunteer hours: 40.5.

May 6, 2009: Volunteer day to get Washington office employees out to NCTC and away from their desks: Altogether eight volunteers pulled 241 pounds in 2.5 hours. We concentrated on the area west of the box elder dog-hair stand down by the river where the garlic mustard meets the large stands of native bluebells. Participants for this event included Rebecca Culler from the Wildlife Habitat Council and Washington Office Refuge employees Janine Van Norman, Andrew Gude, Delissa Padilla, Donald Whitaker, Marquita Douglas, Michael Lusk, and Jenny Ericson. Total volunteer hours:  20.

- Jenny Ericson, Invasive Species Program, National Wildlife Refuge System, USFWS, Washington, D.C.


Fish and Wildlife Service Employee in Virginia Serves as Site Leader for Volunteer Program to Remove Invasive Plants From County Park

I am a site leader for Fairfax County Park Authority's Invasive Management Area Volunteer Program. The IMA Volunteer Program is a community-based project that helps reduce invasive plants on Fairfax County parklands. Read More As a site leader for this program, I recruit and train other volunteers from the local area to assist me with manually removing non-native, invasive plants and restoring the native-plant community at Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in Fairfax County. Key components of this program are habitat restoration and a long-term commitment to the park.

- Dan Buford, Endangered Species Program, USFWS, Arlington, Va.


National Park Service Science and Resource Management Chief in Arizona Organizes 'Weedwacker' Groups to Combat Invasive Species

I volunteer with the Pima County Department of Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation to give presentations on invasive plant species in the community. We particularly focus on homeowners' associations but include groups of children and other community organizations in our education programs. I have given seven presentations, reaching about 120 community members. I also help to organize volunteer "weedwacker" groups who work with hand tools to remove problematic invasive species.

- Meg Weesner, chief, Science and Resources Management, Saguaro National Park, NPS, Tucson, Ariz. 


Volunteer Geoscientist with National Park in Port Alsworth, Alaska, Researching Geologic History of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

I am currently a geologist-in-the-park at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in southern Alaska. Though I am a volunteer, I had to compete against 10 other applicants for my position. I am researching the Quaternary geologic history of the park, meaning that I am reconstructing the major geological events that have occurred here during the past 30,000 years. This task has involved several days of helicopter and floatplane-supported fieldwork, many multi-day hikes and months of background research. Read More I have discovered ancient lakes, figured out the timing of major glacial advances and retreats, sifted through evidence of ancient volcanic eruptions and helped produce a geologic map of the park. At the end of my time here, I will produce several documents and reports that will assist park staff and visitors who may be interested in learning more about the park's geological resources.

My work as the temporary park geologist has also allowed me to interact with the public. I have given presentations at the visitor center about the geological forces that produced the landscape we see today to local residents and school children. I have spoken with many visitors to the park about particular features and helped identify rocks that they brought to me. I also got a chance to work with National Park Service archeologists who were looking for ancient hunting tools in rapidly melting ice fields. These interactions have increased public awareness of the park's hidden geologic wonders, a service the park desperately needed to provide. (I am the first geologist to work here in many years.)

During my volunteer experience, I have discovered Lake Clark National Park is an amazing resource: This approximately 4.5-million-acre park includes a rugged mountain range pierced by two active volcanoes, hundreds of glaciers and thousand-foot waterfalls, sky-blue rivers and lakes, bears, moose, wolves and eagles. It is everything that comes to mind when I think of "wilderness." I consider myself very lucky to have been given the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in such a magnificent national park.

- Jon Harvey, volunteer geoscientist-in-the-park, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, NPS, Port Alsworth, Alaska


National Park Service Biological Technician in Sangus, Mass., Volunteers With Coastal Watershed Organization's 'Clean Beaches and Streams' Program

I work at Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site in Saugus, Mass. Every summer I volunteer for Salem Sound Coastwatch, a nonprofit coastal-watershed organization in Salem, Mass. Through its Clean Beaches and Streams program, SSCW selects water samples from outfall pipes that surround Salem's harbor . Read More Every two weeks folks head out first thing in the morning (during low tide) and collect water from these pipes. SSCW tests the samples for the harmful bacteria that make beaches unsafe for swimming. The test results also show if a pipe is dumping an unusual amount of polluted water, indicating a pollution source or broken pipes underground. 

Volunteers take pride in this work because most of the time they are sampling their favorite local spots. Because their kids play in this water, these volunteers are making an effort to ensure the water is clean and safe. I personally sample three pipes in Beverly (a neighboring town).

 - Christine Downs, biological technician, Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, NPS, Saugus, Mass.


Oregon Resident Tackles Science-Based Tasks During Summer as Volunteer for Denali National Park, Alaska   

I am writing to tell you about the wonderful opportunity I had this summer volunteering for Denali National Park in Alaska.

In March 2009, I was laid off from my 7-year career in marketing and promotions at a outdoor-apparel manufacturing company. Given the depressed job market in Oregon and seeing this unfortunate situation as a chance to engage in a life-changing experience, I went to Alaska in April. Read More 

From the day I arrived at the park, the staff was very helpful and I took a volunteer position with the Resources Division. For the next four months, I worked primarily with the road-study team and secondarily with the glacier, botany and trails divisions.

With the Road Study, I was afforded quality time spent in the park, studying the behavioral habits of Dall sheep, tracking wildlife sitings, recording view and soundscapes, and collecting road dust samples for analysis. With the Plants Division, I assisted with pulling invasive species from the park and prepared seeds, which the park had previously collected, for re-vegetation.

I feel truly fortunate to see firsthand the pristine beauty of Denali. Many studies allowed for multiple days backpacking and hiking. I've rarely witnessed such amazing views during all my time in the greater outdoors. I've spent time traveling around the United States, New Zealand, South and Central Americas. Alaska is just as, if not more, intriguing than these places, especially from a conservation and preservation standpoint.   

Additionally, coming from an arts field of study, it was rewarding to tackle tasks in a science-based setting. Typically I wouldn't expect to gain exposure in this field without a degree in science. Not only did I feel the park appreciated my contribution but I also felt the time I spent was personally worthwhile and very rewarding.

Lastly, I must comment on the tremendous staff at Denali National Park. Every day, I talked with full-time and seasonal personnel who genuinely and outwardly love their job. In a corporate society where work ethics have gone out the window and employee loyalty is nonexistent, I'm happy to say this is not the case with Denali National Park. To interact with skilled, knowledgeable and friendly staff was refreshing. Each worker is committed to hospitality and showing all visitors a unique aspect of the park.

In closing, my 239 hours of volunteer service in Denali was the perfect way to spend a summer. I feel achievement and pride for being an active participant in the preservation of one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States. As an avid outdoorswoman who enjoys backpacking, paddling and mountain biking, it is important to me that anyone can find retreat, solitude and peace in a place like this. And I hope that it is possible for centuries to come. I applaud the United We Serve leadership campaign and find joy in declaring September "National Wilderness Month."

- Jodie Turmell , volunteer, Denalia National Park, Alaska