150 FW 1
Policy, Procedures, and
Responsibilities for Volunteers

FWM#: 435 (Supersedes 150 FW 1, 04/06/92, FWM 020)

Date: December 15, 2003

Series:  Volunteers

Part 150:  Volunteer Services Program

Originating Office:Division of Visitor Services and Communications 



                                              PDF Version

1.1 What is the purpose of this chapter? This chapter contains Fish and Wildlife Service policies, procedures, and responsibilities for acceptance of volunteer services.

1.2 What is the scope of this chapter? This chapter applies to personnel working with individuals, groups, and students who dedicate time and talent to assist the Service.

1.3 How do volunteers assist the Service? We recognize the value of time and expertise contributed by individuals, groups and students. Volunteers help the Service achieve agency goals within every program at every administrative level.

1.4 Why does the Service involve volunteers in its activities?

A. To provide people with opportunities to assist us in the accomplishment of our mission by contributing to the preservation and conservation of our natural and cultural resources.

B. To enhance our performance through the creativity and innovations, labor, and expertise contributed by volunteers.

C. To provide opportunities for students and others to gain experience in areas of interest for future careers.

D. To complete projects and other work that we would not otherwise accomplish without the use of volunteers.

E. To encourage stewardship of wildlands, wildlife, and other natural and cultural resources through public participation in, and contribution to Service programs and operations.

1.5 What authority allows the Service to accept volunteer services? We derive authority to accept volunteer services and operate this program from the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956, as amended by the Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act of 1978 (16 U.S.C. 742a-754j-2, as amended). The Fiscal Year 1992 Departmental Appropriations bill authorized the Service to use appropriated funds to award and recognize volunteers. The National Wildlife Refuge System Volunteer and Community Partnership Enhancement Act of 1998 (16 U.S.C. 742f) further defined how we could utilize volunteers to enhance our work.

1.6 What are the definitions for terms used in this chapter?

A. Agreement. The Volunteer Services Agreement (FWS Form 3-2148) is the official document that the volunteer or group leader completes and signs before the volunteer begins work. The Unit Volunteer Coordinator outlines the responsibilities of the agency and the volunteer. In the case of students receiving credit for their work from an educational institution, the student, a representative of the school, and a representative of the Service office will jointly complete the agreement.

B. Student. A student is an individual enrolled not less than half-time in a high school, trade school, technical or vocational institute, college, university, or comparably recognized educational institution. We place a volunteer in the student category if they are receiving institutional credit for the work and if the volunteer agreement is among the Service, the educational institution, and the student. Students under the age of 18 must have a signed valid parental/guardian permission form (FWS Form 3-2087).

C. Student Conservation Association Program Participant. A Student Conservation Association program participant is a volunteer of either high school or college age recruited through the Student Conservation Association (SCA) whose volunteer service we define under the national agreement between the Service and the SCA. The national agreement is on file in the Division of Contracting and Facilities Management, Headquarters.

D. Volunteer Service. We limit volunteer service to personal services received from individuals or groups without salary or wage compensation by the Service. Volunteers will not represent themselves as official spokespersons for the United States Government or the Service.

1.7 Who is responsible for the volunteer program?

A. Assistant Director - National Wildlife Refuge System:

(1) Oversees and has the lead role for implementing our volunteer program.

(2) Approves and distributes a handbook and other materials for our employees involved with setting up or managing a volunteer program.

B. Service Volunteer Coordinator, designated by the Assistant Director - National Wildlife Refuge System:

(1) Plans, develops, and monitors Service volunteer policies and procedures.

(2) Provides guidance and technical assistance to field and Regional/ offices on our volunteer program.

(3) Maintains, develops, and updates required forms, as well as a handbook and other appropriate media for starting and operating a volunteer program.

(4) Initiates and coordinates efforts to make our volunteer opportunities known to the public.

(5) Submits an annual report to the Director, that includes an analysis of the costs and benefits of our volunteer program. Provides copies of Regional report summaries to others as requested.

(6) Represents the Service on the Federal Interagency Committee on Volunteers and in dealings with other Federal, State, and private organizations regarding the Service's volunteer program.

(7) Works to establish national and local volunteer partnership agreements with outside agencies that promote and enhance Service programs.

(8) Coordinates with other Service programs in managing volunteer programs, developing policy, etc.

C. Regional Directors delegate authority to Regional Volunteer Coordinators who:

(1) Implement and coordinate the Region volunteer program.

(2) Ensure that we adequately communicate volunteer program goals, objectives, policies, and guidelines to field and Regional Office staff.

(3) Provide guidance and technical assistance to field offices and the Regional OfficeO on the Service's volunteer program.

(4) Assist field and Regional Office managers in public outreach efforts and in defining volunteer program needs, including recruitment and placement plans, establishing contacts for applicant referrals, and recognition of volunteer services.

(5) Identify training needs and coordinate regular volunteer-related training opportunities for field personnel.

(6) Participate in refuge reviews, visitor services evaluations, and other program reviews as assigned.

(7) Evaluate Regional program accomplishments and prepare required reports.

D. Office Supervisors at field, Regional, and Headquarters Offices are responsible for:

(1) Effectively using volunteer services to enhance their programs.

(2) Conducting volunteer programs as described in this and other pertinent Service Manual chapters.

(3) Assigning a unit volunteer program coordinator as appropriate.

(4) Ensuring that we provide necessary accommodations for volunteers with disabilities in accordance with regulations in 43 CFR 17.

(5) Nominating noteworthy volunteers for national and/or Regional awards.

(6) Coordinating volunteer health and safety issues with Regional health and safety officers and unit health and safety officers.

E. Unit Volunteer Coordinators are responsible for the administration of station volunteer programs and will:

(1) Recruit, orient, and ensure volunteers receive training and instruction, then outfit new volunteers with the basic equipment, supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and appropriate clothing they need to successfully begin their duties.

(2) Work with unit volunteer supervisors to develop volunteer position descriptions, assess needs, and match volunteers with available opportunities.

(3) Develop and maintain regular communication with volunteers through newsletters, telephone calls, and correspondence.

(4) Ensure that we evaluate and recognize volunteers at the unit as well as within the Service and local community.

(5) Compile and submit reports as required.

(6) Support and coach volunteer supervisors in evaluating, rewarding, and resolving performance issues of volunteers.

F. Volunteer Supervisors include Service personnel at the field, Regional, and Headquarters Offices who direct volunteers in activities that benefit the Service. Volunteer supervisors:

(1) Define volunteer tasks and assist in the development of position descriptions.

(2) Provide appropriate training, PPE, tools, equipment, and performance evaluation.

(3) Recommend volunteers for appropriate recognition.

(4) Communicate closely with unit volunteer coordinators.

(5) Supervise the work of volunteers.

1.8 What activities are appropriate for volunteers? Volunteers can participate in almost any capacity. See exceptions listed in paragraph 1.9 and information regarding duties that require additional training in paragraph 1.10.

1.9 When is the use of volunteers not appropriate? Volunteers should not displace any employee or staff a position that is a normal part of our work force, nor may we use them in place of authorized service-type contracts. Volunteers will not collect fees or handle money owed to the United States Government except pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 3911(g), which authorizes volunteers to collect entrance fees. Entrance fees include Golden Eagle Passports, Golden Age Passports, Golden Eagle Upgrade Holograms, Refuge Specific Annual Passes, Federal Duck Stamps, and single visit entrance fees. We will not use volunteers in regulation or law enforcement activities. Volunteers cannot issue citations or carry firearms associated with law enforcement activities; however, they may observe and report problems. We prohibit volunteers from handling sensitive documents, such as investigative reports and other law enforcement files, personnel files, and financial disclosure forms.

1.10 What activities do we allow only with additional training? Volunteers may only participate in hazardous jobs, such as firefighting and operating heavy equipment, if they have completed the appropriate Federal training and certification requirements specific to the hazards of the tasks involved. We should hire individuals who meet fire qualification requirements as emergency firefighters on an Emergency Employment and Time Sheet (DI 530), available from the Regional office. Once hired, we no longer consider these individuals volunteers.

1.11 What process should we use to assess potentially dangerous volunteer assignments? We must evaluate volunteer assignments that pose safety hazards on a case-by-case basis. We develop a Job Hazard Analysis for all hazardous activities in accordance with guidance provided in 240 FW 2 and for any activity for which we report an injury or accident (see 240 FW 7). When the analysis requires operational and safety training, certification, or equipment, the volunteer will not perform the job until they complete all training; we certify the volunteer, if appropriate; the supervisor knows the volunteer's work capability; the volunteer understands the job and its hazards; and we supply appropriate equipment. We must exercise special care when using volunteers under 18 years of age. In these cases, provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. 201-219), as it addresses child labor apply, as well as the aforementioned parental/guardian permission.

1.12 Which safety and health considerations apply to volunteers? All Department and Service safety and health policies apply to volunteer activities. You may find additional information on occupational safety and health in Parts 240 - 243.

For additional information on the content of this chapter, contact the Division of Visitor Services and Communications.  For additional information regarding this Web page, contact Krista Bibb, in the Division of Policy and Directives Management, at 

Directives Home

PDM Web sites: Centralized Library of Servicewide Policies | FWS Forms | PDM Services

Privacy, Disclaimer and Copyright Information | Information Quality Act

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home Page | Department of the Interior  |  | About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  | Accessibility  | Privacy  | Notices  | Disclaimer  | FOIA