The government is always in need of volunteers in the great outdoors. It’s a fact. Governments have to account for every penny they spend, so when they get positive volunteers like you to help out, they are stoked.
Volunteers can help out in so many ways. In fact the only limit to what they can and can’t do is that they can’t work in any outdoor law enforcement. Otherwise you’ll be working right next to full time employees – making the outdoors a safe and fun place for everyone. You won’t be making a paycheck, but often there is help with transportation, food, lodging, or a free parks pass.
The US Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and US Fish and Wildlife Service all have volunteer programs.
They all rock, so take your pick on which one you like best.
The US Forest Service uses roughly 80,000 volunteers each year. Those volunteers worked a combined 4.2 million hours doing such cool things as research, forestry work, resource protection, administrative, and the list goes on. Some volunteers planted trees, others hosted campgrounds, some led nature hikes, and others helped with fire protection. Most volunteers commit for around 6 weeks at a time, but any amount of time you can offer is appreciated. One big program is Passport in Time. It is a volunteer opportunity where you work on archaeological or historic preservation programs alongside professional archaeologists.
The National Park Service has the Volunteers in the Parks program, which uses 1000s of volunteers each year in all sorts of departments – administration, hosts, curators, archaeology, interpretation, maintenance, protection, resource management, and other categories.
The Bureau of Land Management also welcomes volunteers. The volunteer work often consists of trail building, campground work, visitor greetings, tree planting, or surveying. Usually the BLM will help you cover travel and food expenses, but not much else.
The US Fish and Wildlife service is another volunteering opportunity. Most of the volunteering is based on maintenance, administration, resource support (helping to stock fish or tag animals), and public programs.
The best ways to get information on volunteering are to call the agency or park where you want to volunteer. Someone will happily tell you how to apply and what your options are. Another option is to stop by the park and ask someone in a uniform if you can help. They’ll be sure to point you in the right direction.