S. 305

Department of the Interior Volunteer Recruitment Act of 2005




U.S. Department of the Interior

before the

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources


S. 305, The Department of the Interior volunteer recruitment act of 2005

March 8, 2005


S. 305, the Department of the Interior Volunteer Recruitment Act of 2005, would allow the Secretary of the Interior to recruit volunteers to assist with the activities of various agencies and offices of the Department of the Interior.   The Department of the Interior strongly supports this bill and urges that it be enacted.  It is consistent with the Administration’s program.  Through our Take Pride in America program, the Department of the Interior recruits, supports, and recognizes volunteers who work to improve our public lands and cultural and historic sites.  Volunteers across America help public land managers fix fences and trails, stabilize soils, replant stream banks devastated by forest fires, restore historic buildings, teach kids to fish, collect data and monitor bird populations.  They direct their energy to serving the American public and building a culture of responsibility.

Currently, just five of the Interior Department’s eight bureaus have authority to accept volunteers, and two of these have only limited authority to use volunteers.  Statutory provisions regarding the proper limitations on using volunteers are inconsistent or nonexistent.    S. 305 would provide clear authority to pay for incidental services or costs associated with volunteers, such as providing supplies or transportation to a work site, and for training and supervision of volunteers.  This bill would fill many statutory gaps, providing authority for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Office of the Secretary to work with volunteers to support the renewal of the Take Pride in America program, and perfecting the existing volunteer authority of the United States Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation.  The Department of the Interior is therefore pleased to support the passage of this legislation.

The bill is entirely consistent with existing authorities.  It does not disturb the current statutory volunteer authority of the three bureaus that presently have sufficient authority and avoids disruption of existing programs to the maximum extent possible.  This bill would not displace employees.

The Department of the Interior is a leader in the federal government in providing opportunities for volunteer service.  Because of our unique mission in support of the Nation’s natural and cultural heritage, we believe that expanding volunteer authority makes eminent good sense and that this bill is suitably drafted for that purpose.  If this bill is enacted, Americans will have opportunities, for example, to volunteer as tutors in BIA schools.  Nineteenth century French writer Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the United States was a nation of voluntary associations.  S. 305 will help to make sure our 21st century laws keep this spirit of volunteerism alive. 

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