Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
For Immediate Release:
November 18, 2005

Contact:Joan Moody
(202) 208-6416

Secretary Norton Commends Congress For Legislation to Recruit Volunteers

Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today commended Congress for passage of H.R. 584, legislation that would allow increased use of volunteers in Interior Department agencies. The Senate passed the bill on Nov. 16 and the House on March 14, 2005. The legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) and a companion bill sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho).

"I commend Congressman Pombo, Senator Craig and the Congress for their action on this important legislation," said Norton. "The bill will ensure that all of Interior's bureaus have authority and resources to work with volunteers. Volunteers across America help public land managers fix fences and trails, restore historic buildings, teach kids to fish, monitor bird populations and perform many other functions. They provide hands, eyes and smiles to help our dedicated workforce serve the American public."

Under existing authorities, the Interior Department currently has more than 200,000 volunteers who provide assistance in national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands. The proposed legislation would allow Interior to recruit and use volunteers in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Office of the Secretary and strengthen existing volunteer authority at the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The legislation will give a boost to the Take Pride in America program, a national initiative to inspire volunteerism on public lands. Take Pride in America is a component of the USA Freedom Corps, created by President Bush in 2002 as part of his call to all Americans to volunteer in their communities. Volunteer programs strengthen the connection of Americans to public lands.