Volunteers Donate 1.4 Million Hours to Wildlife Conservation Efforts
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that during fiscal year 2005 nearly 38,000 volunteers donated more than 1.4 million hours of service, the equivalent of more than $25 million in work, on behalf of wildlife and wildlife conservation across the country.
Volunteers included Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Student Conservation Association volunteers, and those who participate in the Take Pride in America programs and National Public Lands Day. Their efforts ranged from routinely supporting refuge staff on a regular basis to assisting with one-day events. Volunteers also included the 200-plus nonprofit Refuge System Friends organizations located around the country.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of volunteers has grown steadily during the last 23 years. In 1982, 4,251 volunteers donated 128,440 hours, valued at more than $1.1 million. A decade later, the number of volunteers more than quadrupled to 18,103 people who donated work worth more than $11.7 million.
The largest number of volunteer hours–more than 584,000–addressed wildlife and habitat work. At the annual Rio Reforestation Day in the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, hundreds of volunteers joined Fish and Wildlife Service staff to plant seedlings that will provide food, habitat, and cover for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Since 1994, volunteers have planted nearly 132,000 native seedlings across 552 acres on the national wildlife refuge.
At Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois, volunteers ages two to 62 netted almost 200 migrating Monarch butterflies during the Fourth Annual Butterfly Roundup. The butterflies are tagged each year to help an ongoing research project with the University of Kansas Monarch Watch program.
Ranked second in volunteer interest were programs that delivered quality wildlife-dependent recreation and environmental education. Together those sectors garnered 525,000 donated hours. In August 2005, the Friends of Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey spent more than 300 hours building a wheelchair-accessible observation platform to give unobstructed views of the tidal marsh.
A Student Conservation Association high school crew on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska completed a new hiking trail and boardwalk to the Swanson River, connecting it to the refuge’s outdoor education center in order to provide views into boreal forest and muskeg habitats.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System that encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 fish and wildlife management offices, and 81 ecological services field stations.
The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.