National Wildlife Refuge System

Improving Volunteer and Partnership Opportunities

volunteer and partnership
Many refuges offer opportunities to volunteer, such as this Young Birders Winter Bird Count at John Heinz Refuge at Tinicum, PA.
Credit: Debbie Beers

Shared stewardship is the conceptual linchpin behind the Conserving the Future Community Partnership implementation team’s draft strategic plan for volunteer and partnership involvement, open for public and employee comment through February 8.  Seeking to strengthen the engagement of volunteers, Friends organizations and community partnerships, the draft plan recommends some rather specific steps, including: 

  • Over the next five years, add 50 Friends organizations or formal community partnerships for staffed refuges that don’t now have such an organization.  In the next decade, the Refuge System hopes to have a Friends organization for every staffed refuge.  Today, 139 staffed refuges have no Friends organization working on their behalf.
  • Work to hire full-time volunteer coordinators at refuges or refuge complex that get more than 200,000 annual visitors. 
  • Enhance recruitment of volunteers, especially among diverse communities, and then improve the orientation that volunteers, Friends and community partners receive so they better understand the local refuge and the Refuge System.
  • Provide not only more skills training for volunteers, but also more rewards and incentives that recognize just how important volunteers are.
  • Strengthen Friends training not only through the Refuge System Friends Academy, but also through national conferences and regional workshops eo encourage vibrant Friends organizations.
  • The redesign of the Friends mentoring program.

Express your thoughts and reactions to the plan online by joining the Conserving the Future social network or by emailing

Find an existing Friends group near you here.

Find current volunteer opportunities on national wildlife refuges here.

Last updated: January 28, 2013