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Three Reasons We Love Refuge System Friends and Volunteers

It’s National Volunteer Week! We appreciate and thank all of the Friends and volunteers of the National Wildlife Refuge System – wildlife refuges simply wouldn’t be the same without them.  More than 36,000 individuals volunteer their time to the Refuge System. They contributed more than 1.4 million hours in Fiscal Year 2014 – essentially boosting the System’s workforce by over 20 percent!

Volunteers are an incredible valuable resource to the National Wildlife Refuge System
Volunteers are an incredible valuable resource to the National Wildlife Refuge System

Friends and Volunteers add 20 percent to Refuge System workforce: Today, the Refuge System employs about 3,040 people. In Fiscal Year 2014, the volunteer workforce donated 1.4 million hours. The hours put in by volunteers is the equivalent to about 618 staff members work load – all done for free. This 20% increase in workforce is vital to the Refuge System providing programs and completing projects. Friends and volunteers may come from communities surrounding a wildlife refuge or workcampers who are moving around the country. They all share and celebrate the common value of conserving and protecting America’s wildlife for current and future generations. The 36,000 Refuge System Friends and volunteers show that Americans truly value the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Friends and Volunteers Provide Assistance Where Needed: In many cases, budget cuts have put a strain on wildlife refuges and their staff that can’t get all of the necessary work done. Thankfully, there are trusted Friends and volunteers of the Refuge System that address things like removing invasive species, collecting public use data, repairing facilities, mowing the grasses, and so much more! This year’s Refuge Volunteer of the Year, Mr. Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon put in 1,168 hours in the first 8 months volunteering on the refuge! In his time at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, he organized the Annual Friends Meeting and Refuge Volunteer Awards ceremony, worked with other volunteers to make sure teachers were able to schedule environmental education programs and collected public use data for Refuge Monthly Activity Reports and Refuge Refuge Annual Performance Plan (RAPP) report. He also regularly checks feral hog traps, helps with deer counts, works the deer check station, and gives PowerPoint presentations on the refuge to local groups.

Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico on a cleanup day | Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico on a cleanup day | Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Friends and Volunteers are the Welcoming Face on many Wildlife Refuges: Many times, refuge staff is consumed with wildlife management issues out on the refuge or in the office and don’t have enough time to greet visitors – that is where volunteers and Friends come in. Volunteers and Friends members act as the face of many refuges, welcoming in visitors with smiles, providing information, and answering questions. In our experience here at the Refuge Association, as we travel to different refuges we are so thankful for the wonderful volunteers who share their passion for their refuge with us to create an incredible experience. We are grateful that these wonderful people who volunteer on wildlife refuges share time and energy with the 47 million visitors that come to wildlife refuges.

To learn more about how you can volunteer at a National Wildlife Refuge, visit http://www.fws.gov/volunteers/volOpps.html. To stay up to date on what is going on with volunteers and the refuge system, make sure to sign up for our Flyer eNewsletter!

If you would like a high resolution version of the infographic, please email Emily Paciolla at epaciolla@refugeassociation.org

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/three-reasons-we-love-refuge-system-friends-and-volunteers/

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