Welcome To

Volunteerism and Service with the
United States Forest Service

A resource for volunteering and working with the Forest Service to accomplish our mission of caring for the land and serving the people.
Volunteers assist the United States Forest Service to remain strong, safe, healthy, relevant, and accessible.

The United States Forest Service offers volunteer opportunities for people of all ages with varying levels of skill, ability, or interests. Since 1972, over 3 million volunteers and service participants have provided more approximately 130 million hours of service to support the United States Forest Service mission.

Volunteerism and service are critical agency assets that enable the Forest Service to successfully achieve its mission.

Overview of the United States Forest Service

  • Established in 1905, the mission of the United States Forest Service is “to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.“
  • The National Forest System (NFS) Program Area is divided into 9 regions, 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, covering 193 million acres of land in 44 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
  • Over 20% of the U.S. water supply originates on Forest Service land.  National Forests are the single most important source of water in the U.S., providing over 6 million Americans with drinking water.
  • The State and Private Forestry (SPF) Program Area is the federal leader in providing technical and financial assistance to state forestry organizations and private landowners, and oversees firefighting and prevention activities.
  • The Research and Development (R&D) Program Area is internationally recognized for cultivating natural resource knowledge management and learning.
Forest Service Regions

“Caring for the Land and Serving People”

Volunteering & Service Opportunities

There are a wide variety of volunteering and service opportunities that can
meet your talents and interests or can help you to learn new skills.
CAMPGROUNDS
Campgrounds
  • Serve as Campground Host to maintain sites and facilities, and manage campground safety
  • Coordinate stewardship and cleanup events
  • Monitor developed and wilderness siteS
VISITOR CENTERS
Visitor Center
  • Greet and share information with visitors
  • Respond to inquiries and provide interpretive talks
  • Perform administrative and information technology tasks
  • Manage interpretive displays and provide safety requirements
TRAIL WORK
Trail Work
  • Maintain and clear trails, remove hazardous trees
  • Perform routine checks and updates as a local steward
  • Monitor and provide trail condition reports, photos, GPS locations, and descriptions
  • Support recreational trail maintenance for biking, hiking, ski and other trails
CONSERVATION
Conservation
  • Conduct inventory of wildlife and plants
  • Serve as a fire lookout to spot wildlfires
  • Build and repair fences, nest boxes, picnic tables, and other structures
  • Rehabilitate special natural areas, glades and wetlands
EDUCATION
Education
  • Facilitate tours and experiences for visitors
  • Deliver environ-mental education and interpretive programs
  • Represent the Forest Service at public events and schools
  • Develop informational resources
SPECIAL PROJECTS
Special Projects
  • Use Geographic Information System (GIS) to map geological landmarks and other projects
  • Survey and track wildlife
  • Provide large-scale data collection for science literacy and shared knowledge through Citizen Science
  • Observe and explore changes to ecosystems through Bioblitz events
SPECIAL EVENTS
Special Events
  • Serve as booth or table host at school events or community festivals
  • Participate in days of service projects, such as National Public Lands Day, Get Outdoors, or National Trails Day
  • Host a friends meetup to clean up a site

Pathways To Volunteering & Service Opportunities

The Forest Service provides opportunities for individuals, groups and partners to perform volunteerism and service activities on a local Forest Service unit or office. The following provides more information about the different type.

Volunteering

Volunteers do not receive salary or wages, but may be reimbursed for approved, out-of-pocket expenses.

Service Opportunities

Service participants receive remuneration,
or wages, stipends,
and other benefits.

INDIVIDUALS
& LOCAL GROUPS

Opportunities to get involved
directly with the Forest Service

  • Volunteer opportunities under direct supervision of Forest Service staff require a Volunteer Agreement Form, or OF301a, to authorize engagement. Individuals or groups who freely donate time, talent,  and resources as a volunteer must sign a volunteer agreement form, or OF301a.
  • The Volunteer Agreement form must specify service expectations, requirements, safety, and any reimbursements that the Forest Service may approve.
  • Service opportunities, under the oversight of Forest Service staff, engage participants in work-based, educational, and professional development opportunities through formal programs that offer remuneration as part of the experience.
  • Generally, projects are short-term and seasonal in nature. Many Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew members, young adults ages 15 to 18, are directly hired by the Forest Service to engage in paid summer employment.

PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS

Opportunities to get involved through
Forest Service Partners

  • Partner-led volunteer opportunities can include individuals or groups who volunteer as part of a larger organization, corporation, State or local government.
  • Partner organizations can recruit and manage volunteers on behalf of the Forest Service. Partner led volunteer projects must be authorized under a cooperating agreement.
  • In partnership with the Forest Service, partners may provide education, hands- on training, and professional development as part of the volunteer experience. Costs for out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the partner and volunteers are paid directly to the partner organization.
  • Service opportunities, under the oversight of Forest Service staff, engage participants in work-based, educational, and professional development opportunities through formal programs that offer remuneration as part of the experience.
  • Generally, projects are short-term and seasonal in nature. Many Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew members, young adults ages 15 to 18, are directly hired by the Forest Service to engage in paid summer employment.
Individuals & Groups
Partner Organizations

How To Get Involved

Find
Contact - arrow
Engage - Arrow

INDIVIDUALS
& LOCAL GROUPS

  • Check opportunities on Volunteer.gov, your local unit or community webpages and calendars and meetup boards for a project near you.
  • Attend a volunteer informational meeting.
  • Join local groupswho sponsor projects.
  • Search special announcements for YCC or Resource Assistant Program opportunities on the Forest Service website.
  • Contact your Forest Service volunteer coordinator or other staff directly.
  • Visit a Forest Service field office, email staff, or submit interest and questions on Volunteer.gov.
  • Submit an OF301 Volunteer Application to identify your strengths, time availability, certifications and interests.
  • Negotiate and sign a volunteer agreement.
  • Identify and understand the potential safety issues prior to beginning the work.  Follow all project and safety requirements.
  • Regularly check in with your Forest Service unit and be sure to report your accomplishments and hours to your local Forest Service contact. Opportunities are available for individuals and local groups to be recognized for exemplary work.

PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS

  • Learn about partner organizations that sponsor opportunities.
  • Consider programs hosted by agencies like the Veterans Administration (VA) and opportunities through our 21stCentury Conservation Corp (21CSC).
  • Contact local partner organizations to learn about programs and projects.
  • Become knowledgeable about specific application processes and eligibility requirements.
  • Follow the application process and eligibility requirements and submit materials by the deadline.
  • Identify and Understand the potential safety issues prior to beginning the work  Follow all project and safety requirements.
  • Regularly check with your host organization and be sure to report your accomplishments and hours.  Opportunities are available for partners and participants to be recognized for exemplary work.

For further questions, contact the
USFS volunteer coordinator on your unit or in your region.

How To Get Involved | Qualifications & Requirements

Qualifications
Qualifications

Anyone can volunteer, but minors need parental consent. The Forest Servicestaffnegotiating and approving volunteer agreements will determine if there are certain qualifications for each volunteer assignment.

Training
Training

You will receive the proper training to ensure you have the knowledge and skills necessary to complete tasks adequately and safely.

Timekeeping
Timekeeping & Accomplishements

It is important for you to record the number of hours you serve and work accomplished. Your agency or partner contact will tell you how and where to report your timekeeping.

Uniforms
Uniforms

You may need to wear a uniform or special attire if you have frequent contact with the public so they can identify you as an agency representative.  The Forest Service or partner will provide a uniform or a uniform allowance.

Expenses
Expenses and Reimbursements

You may be eligible for reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses related to transportation, food, and certain miscellaneous expenses. Some service participants receive remuneration for their efforts.

How To Get Involved | Relevant Terms

Tree
Volunteer.gov

A national, centralized portal where land management agencies, including the USDA Forest Service, post volunteer opportunities searchable by city, state, agency, and interest.

TreePartner-led Volunteer

Individuals or groups, who freely donate time, talent, and resources, to perform duties to support Agency projects, except firefighting, law enforcement and union representation; engaged as part of a larger organization, corporation, State or local government, or other entity. The host organization collaborates with the Forest Service through a cooperating or partnership agreement.

TreeDirect Volunteer

Individuals or groups, who freely donate time, talent, and resources, to perform duties to support Agency projects, except firefighting, law enforcement and union representation; engaged directly through a Volunteer Service Agreement (OF-301a).

TreesService Participant

Forest Service participants are individuals, teams or crews, who receive remuneration for service to perform duties to support Agency projects, except firefighting, law enforcement and union representation perform;  designed to promote increased awareness about natural and cultural resources.

Trees
Job Hazard analysis (JHA)

A procedure that focuses on project tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur by examining the relationships between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment.

TreeRegion

The USDA Forest Service is divided into nine (9) regions; regional office staff coordinate activities between national forests and grasslands, monitor activities on those lands, provide guidance for forest plans, and allocate budget to the forests.

TreeUSDA Nondiscrimination Statement

USDA and its Agencies, offices, employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, income, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

Tree
Campground Host

Volunteers that live for extended periods of time on public campgrounds and are responsible for providing friendly service and recreational information to the public, collecting data, and maintaining facilities, among other possible duties.

TreeVolunteer Service Agreement

Outlines the project goals, agreement period, and responsibilities of your volunteer position, and must be signed prior to your volunteer service.

TreesVolunteer Rights

Include appropriate assignments, safe conditions, meaningful tasks, orientation and training, supervision and support, recognition of service, respect, development of individual potential, and the right to terminate a volunteer agreement at any time.

Opportunities For Diverse Populations

The Forest Service provides opportunities for individuals, groups and partners to perform volunteerism and service activities on a local Forest Service unit or office. The following provides more information about the different type.

Opportunities for
Veterans

Veterans
Veterans Fire Corps (VFC)
  • The VFC is a collaborative initiative that builds upon the knowledge, leadership experience, and training of men and women who served in the armed forces, retraining them and refocusing their mission to protecting public lands from the threat of wildfire.
  • The Forest Service partners with the California Conservation Corps (CCC), Conservation Legacy (CL), and Student Conservation Association (SCA) to operate the Veterans Fire Corps.
  • As part of their service, Veterans receive a living allowance, lodging, food, workers compensation insurance, and can also enroll in the AmeriCorps college education awards program.

Opportunities for Youth and
Young Adults

Young Adults
21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC)
  • The 21CSC is a partnership initiative that provides paid opportunities for young adults and veterans to acquire work skills through hands-on service and job training experiences. 21CSC is designed to develop a generation of skilled workers who are educated and active citizens to serve as stewards of natural and cultural resources.
  • The USDA Forest Service Resource Assistants Program (RAP) is a rigorous and immersivepaid internship for U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are at least 17 years old, interested in natural and cultural resources careers. Resource assistants are recruited by partner organizations into unique experiences to launch careers and to gain stewardship values under the supervision of Forest Service staff.

Opportunities for Tribal and
Native Groups

Tribal and Native Groups
  • Tribal engagement through Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Nicolet National Forest provides opportunities for tribal youth to support recreation and wilderness initiatives. The program’s objective is to introduce young people to explore natural resources management through habitat restoration in their own community, with a commitment to tribal sovereignty. Youth receive a minimum wage stipend for summer employment.

Opportunities for
Seniors

Seniors Forest
Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services (ACES)
  • The Forest Service ACES Program provides opportunities for non-federal experienced workers, age 55 and older, to assist with technical aspects of conservation-related programs executed on or directly impacting National Forest System land. ACES enrollees are recruited by partner organizations and can work to support a variety of Forest Service programs.

Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities

Lake and mountains
Finger Lakes National Forest YCC
  • Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests YCC: The forest hosts residential crews of teenagers from the Lexington School for the Deaf to work on restoration projects and learn about wilderness practices in Vermont and New York. Residential YCC programs make it possible for underserved youth from urban and rural communities who are not within commuting distance of a forest to experience and make connections to the great outdoors, with the opportunity to earn a minimum wage for hours worked.

Opportunities for Rural
Communities

Group on Mountain top
Appalachian Trail Conservation Leadership Corps
  • GroundworksUSA and the Appalachian Trail Conservation Leadership Corps field crews jointly work on segments of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia and North Carolina. This project is part of renewed Forest Service efforts to address backlogged maintenance work on historical trails across the country.

Meet Some of our Partners and Participants

Partner Organization

Greening Youth

Greening Youth Foundation

Atlanta, Georgia
Calendar icon  Est. 2006

A leader in conservation engagement, the Greening Youth Foundation (GYF) is guided by their mission of ensuring under-represented youths have opportunities to connect with nature and work in conservation careers – which is exactly what they do. Since 2006, this 501(c)3 nonprofit has established strong, results-oriented partnerships with the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Forest Service. They also partner with outdoor retailers such as Patagonia and The North Face to raise awareness and expand opportunities. GYF has worked with the Forest Service to engage hundreds of youths through Youth Conservation Corps, Public Lands Corps projects, and the Resource Assistants Program (RAP) as well as helping facilitate orientation and onboarding of RAP cohorts. GYF hosts environmental education and outreach in collaboration with public schools, while also working internationally to support workforce development and employment of youth in Nigeria. 

Friends Group (Partner)

Friends of Kern River

Kern River conservancy

Bakersfield, California
cal Started: 2002

Kern River Conservancy (KRC) founder Gary Ananian is passionate about protecting the public land he loves. While building a career in hospitality, Gary was a frequent recreator on the Kern River in Bakersfield California for many years, which gave him a firsthand view of the damage caused by trash and vandalism. He felt a need to do something about it. In 2013, the Kern River Conservancy nonprofit was born. Learning from other river conservation advocates, Kern River Conservancy eventually grew into over 600 volunteers by 2018 who regularly conduct river/trail cleanups, water quality testing, and environmental education. Increased visitation to public lands during the pandemic has elevated the importance of partnerships like KRS more than ever.  

Resource Assistant

Joshua Lagrada

Joshua Lagrada

Tofte, Minnesota
cal  Started(RA): 2018, FS Employee: 2020

Joshua Lagrada began working with the Forest Service as a Resource Assistant (RA) in 2018. The RA position was his first role after graduating with an Environmental Studies degree. A California native, he moved across the country to Tofte, Minnesota to take part in the internship. Joshua worked on the Tofte district of the Superior National Forest clearing trails, restoring fixtures, and maintain campsites among other roles. At the front desk he provided customer service with a friendly face, offering guidance to visitors on recreation and how to navigate the forest. He grew to love working on the Forest and it was mutual. Joshua’s superb work ethic and engaging personality paid off. In 2020 he transitioned into full-time Forest Service employment as an Information Assistant. What Joshua loves most about his work is getting to explore the public lands – hiking trails, paddling lakes, and visiting campsites are regular parts of his day. 

Partner

Nez Perce

Nez Perce (Nimiipuu) Tribe:

Kamiah, Idaho

The Nez Perce Tribe is one of the Forest Service’s longest standing partners, and the eponym for the Nez Perce National Forest in Kamiah, Idaho. Having lived on these lands for many generations, the Nimiipuu officially ceded these lands in the mid-1800s. Their treaties with the US government dictated certain rights remain, such as use for hunting, resources, and recreation.  But unwritten in those treaties was their commitment to protect and conserve these natural resources. The Tribe engages with Forest Service staff to complete projects throughout the Forest.  Since 1997, the Nez Perce have helped install 8 miles of fencing along riverbanks which protect over 1,000 acres of land. They’ve also helped plant more than 30,000 trees. These types of projects are annual and on-going. Presently they are working on a project to maintain the Nez Perce Ne Me Poo National Historical Trail; to date the Nez Perce Tribe has contributed 6,405 hours of service valued at approximately $175,000 to the project.

National Public Lands Day

National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest
single-day volunteer event for public lands.

Held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, this celebration brings out thousands of volunteers to help restore and improve public lands around the country. This year’s NPLD will take place on Saturday, September 25, 2021. NPLD is also a “Fee-Free Day”—entrance fees are waived at national parks and other public lands. 

This year’s theme, “More Ways to Connect to Nature,” highlights the many ways we can build healthy relationships to public lands, including volunteerism, nature walks, picnics, meditative experiences, sitting in a park, exercise, art, outdoor music/dance, fishing, etc.

Please visit NEEF’s NPLD page for more information, including how to:

Did you know?

NPLD began in 1994 with three federal agencies and 700 volunteers. In 2019, 156,000 volunteers came out to 2,100 sites to volunteer 624,000 hours of their time on public lands, an estimated $15.9 million in value.

Summary

“Conservation is a state of harmony between [people] and land.” ~ Aldo Leopold

For more than 100 years, the Forest Service has brought people and communities together to answer the call of conservation. From retirees to youth groups to conservation organizations and partners, the Forest Service is deeply grateful for the shared stewardship of volunteers and service participants to conserve the public lands legacy for future generations. We would not be able to accomplish our mission without the invaluable and extensive volunteerism and service contributions.  As members of the Forest Service community… employees, volunteers and service participants alike are mindful of how our core values are starting points for spurring dialogue, finding common ground and building enduring relationships.

Forest Service Core Values

Service: to each other, to the American people, to the planet

Interdependence: of all things – people and nature communities and colleagues; the past, present and future

Conservation: protection when necessary; preservation when appropriate; restoration, when needed; and wise management for multiple use and enjoyment, always

Diversity: people and cultures, perspectives and ideas, experiences and ecosystems

Safety: in every way—physical, psychological and social

  • The Forest Service believes in service- to each other and the planet; the connections of people and nature; that conservation means we protect, preserve and restore public lands for the people and their enjoyment; that diversity is key—people and cultures, experiences and ecosystems; and safety is at the heart of everything we do.
  • Thousands of partnerships, projects and programs with citizens, organizations, Friends Groups, and many others help the Forest Service every day to steward public lands.
  • Whatever your interest, location, level of experience, or age, you are welcome to join a legacy of service on our public lands. This is your opportunity to give back to your community, to experience nature and learn more about our resources, and to meet new people. The Forest Service needs your help to care for the land and serve people.

Downloads

Volunteerism and Service

Volunteerism and Service cover

Volunteer Application

Volunteer Agreement

Agreement

Volunteer Group Sign-Up

Volunteer sign-up

Useful Links

https://www.fs.fed.us/working-with-us/volunteers
https://www.volunteer.gov

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