Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge

Ways to Get Involved

 "What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?..." (Winston Churchill, Dundee Scotland, Oct. 8, 1908).

The Refuge has had a robust volunteer program over the last decade, over 42,000 hours of time! Over 400 Volunteers have made large contributions to following programs and/or activities: visitor services (hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education and interpretation), maintenance, biology, weed control, restoration, water control, archaeology, IT, GIS, art, farming practices, carpentry, administration, etc.


So, who can be a Volunteer? An individual who performs hours of service for a public agency for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered, is considered to be a volunteer during such hours. The Refuge has incorporated many volunteers through the national Retired Senior Volunteer Program locally based in Hamilton, MT. Children under 18 may volunteer given signed permission by their parents on the Volunteer Services Agreement form.

What can a Volunteer do on this Refuge? Here's a partial bullet list:


  • Check hiking trails
  • Cleaning up litter/trash
  • Maintain buildings
  • Perform general maintenance duties
  • Landscaping
  • Become certified on heavy equipment to assist with weed control, restoration work


  • Answer and direct phone calls
  • Research and compile information
  • Monitor visitation
  • Staff Bookstore outlet

Resource Management

  • Conduct plant inventory
  • Conduct animal censuses/surveys
  • Establish, fence and water native plantings
  • Remove noxious weeds
  • Clean and monitor nest boxes
  • Maintain and refurbish trails

Public Use

  • Catalog/clean Visitor Center collections
  • Interact with visitors 
  • Conduct biological programs and interpret resources for visitors
  • Interpret land use and cultural histories for visitors
  • Develop artwork
  • Develop educational materials
  • Collect/transcribe oral histories

The Refuge has two concrete pads with water, sewer and power hook-ups (50 amp) for those folks that "workamp". In order to qualify for a "workamper" slot, folks must work 24 hours/week for at least 2 months of the period between May and September. The requirement for becoming a non-workamping volunteer has much lower threshold...a volunteer typically works one-four hour morning or afternoon shift per week.
Interested in volunteering? Contact staff with questions. Thank you for your support.

Our Partners

What is a partnership?

A partnership IS:

  •  A handshake, not a handout. 
  • A written agreement between the parties. 
  • An agreement that outlines the parties’ mutual interest in, mutual benefits from, or mutually desired goals of a common objective related to the mission of the bureau. 
  • An agreement with appropriate legal authority. 
  • An agreement that involves voluntary participation. 
  • Consistent with the partners’ plans, policies, and priorities. 
  • An agreement that demonstrates real benefits to the public. 
  • Wholly owned by each partner organization. 
  • An agreement that has a realistic timeframe with sufficient lead time to acquire funding, materials and necessary approvals. 

A partnership is NOT:

  • A conflict of interest or appearance of conflict of interest or preferential treatment of one entity over another. 
  • An endorsement of commercial products, services, or entities. 
  • A way to get around laws that apply to things like recreational use, procurement of goods and services, etc. 
  • Marketing or promotion of partners in any way, except for recognition of the contribution. 

Lee Metcalf Refuge has a history of fostering partnerships that help accomplish the Refuge mission and implement programs. From 2005 to the present, the Service has entered into various projects and activities with more than 65 organizations including local and national conservation organizations, private companies and businesses, other Federal agencies, State agencies, universities, local schools, and county and city governments. The Refuge also has a very active volunteer program that primarily assists visitor services programs. The Refuge could not begin to meet the needs of the thousands of refuge visitors without partners and volunteers.

These partners have assisted in wildlife and habitat management, visitor services and recreational activities, land protection, law enforcement, and community outreach. Several of these relationships have developed into formalized partnerships with written agreements or memorandum of understanding while others remain more informal.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service works with other Department of the Interior bureaus, other Federal government agencies, and non-governmental entities and individuals to build a partnership-based approach to stewardship. Partnerships help us accomplish common goals because they:

  • Are part of our culture. 
  • Combine individual strengths to accomplish missions. 
  • Foster relationships, common goals and collaboration. 
  • Build constituencies and broad-based community support. 
  • Leverage resources to meet challenges and improve opportunities. 


"Through interpretation, understanding; through understanding, appreciation; through appreciation, protection." Freeman Tilden (1957)

Field Trips to the Refuge

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived" (Henry David Thoreau, Walden)


As of March 1, 2018 the Refuge is short-staffed in providing environmental education services to the degree of the recent past. Refuge volunteers will now be doing the bulk of the work. Thank you for your support and understanding regarding this issue.  


 The Refuge can accommodate roughly 60 students at once or about three classrooms per visit. Best case scenario for large school groups is to divide them into three smaller groups and then rotate through three separate activity stations.


The activity themes are centered on waterfowl and wetlands and have inside/outside components. Typically, one station is dedicated to waterfowl identification (Oke Room lecture/interactive as to what are and where are waterfowl). A second station details aquatic invertebrates (again, hands-on discovery of plant and animal life that ducks utilize). And the third station is a walk on the Kenai Nature Trail to actually discover, view and experience waterfowl and wetlands. Equipment on hand for student doing includes spotting scopes, binoculars, hand lens and microscopes. The Refuge also distributes a journal that is a catalyst for experiential learning (akin to multiple intelligences identified by Howard Gardner).

Online Learning Activity

A pre-fieldtrip or online student learning scenario, Beginners Nuts and Bolts Guide to Wildlife Management, is a novel Refuge webpage assembled to develop critical thinking skills of students ultimately producing the next generation of conservationists or informed citizenry.


Most on-site staff-led environmental education programs take place in the area immediately around the Refuge Headquarters because of the proximity of infrastructure: ample parking, the Okefenokee Room, Visitor Center, restrooms, the environmental education shelter, the aquatic education pond, outdoor amphitheater, and the Kenai Nature Trail. These spaces give staff opportunities and flexibility for providing quality, varied environmental education. The Okefenokee Room is especially valuable because of its multimedia capabilities; it functions much like a formal classroom space. The Visitor Center is also important because of the small library of books, natural history displays (including representations of refuge wildlife), interpretive displays, other environmental education materials. Exhibits are updated to reflect on the season or changing Refuge activities.


Field trips can be scheduled for Mondays through Fridays 8 am - 4:30 pm. Email Dick Davis (Refuge volunteer) dickdavis342@gmail.com and/or Tom Reed (Refuge Manager) tom_reed@fws.gov to schedule a field trip for your school or classroom.


The goal of environmental education is to foster an awareness and appreciation of the importance of protecting the natural and cultural resources of the refuge, the Bitterroot Valley, and the National Wildlife Refuge System. To achieve this, refuge-specific curriculum is being developed for use online (social media, blog, Web site) to include interactive educational opportunities and help teachers plan field visits.
In the meantime, it is essential to help today’s children (tomorrow’s land stewards) become aware of the natural world and how they can protect and restore it. Today, many students learn about their natural world online, through books, or highly structured programs. These methods do provide educational benefits, but it is also effective simply to allow students an opportunity for exploration and discovery. Refuge programs must not be so rigid that children cannot learn by using their own imaginations and senses.
Let us know your needs to improve the quality of your classroom's field trip experience.

Educational Process, Principles and Guidelines

Environmental education is a process designed to teach citizens and visitors the history and importance of conservation and the biological and the scientific knowledge of our Nation’s natural resources. Through this process, we can help develop a citizenry that has the awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills, motivation, and commitment to work cooperatively towards the conservation of our Nation’s environmental resources. Environmental education within the Refuge System incorporates on-site, off-site, and distance learning materials, activities, programs, and products that address the audience’s course of study, refuge purpose(s), physical attributes, ecosystem dynamics, conservation strategies, and the Refuge System mission.

The guiding principles of the Refuge System’s environmental education programs are to:

A. Teach awareness, understanding, and appreciation of our natural and cultural resources and conservation history.
B. Allow program participants to demonstrate learning through refuge-specific stewardship tasks and projects that they can carry over into their everyday lives.
C. Establish partnerships to support environmental education both on- and off-site.
D. Support local, State, and national educational standards through environmental education on refuges.
E. Assist refuge staff, volunteers, and other partners in obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities to support environmental education.
F. Provide appropriate materials, equipment, facilities, and study locations to support environmental education.
G. Give refuges a way to serve as role models in the community for environmental stewardship.
H. Minimize conflicts with visitors participating in other compatible wildlife-dependent recreation activities.

The environmental education opportunities we offer depend on available resources and staffing and must support the refuge’s management purposes and objectives. We advance and support the Refuge System mission and goals by developing programs based on the following guidelines:

A. Connect people’s lives to the natural world around them;
B. Advance environmental and scientific literacy through an interdisciplinary approach to learning;
C. Strengthen the Refuge System by fostering public knowledge about environmental conservation;
D. Help participants experience wildlife, wildlife habitat, and cultural resources;
E. Stress the role and importance of refuges in fish and wildlife conservation and emphasize the relationship between wildlife and their associated ecosystems; and
F. Instill a sense of stewardship and an understanding of our conservation history.

Just for Kids

 “We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Montana Junior Duck Stamp Program

 "Have you ever wondered what makes you look up whenever you hear or see a V-shaped flock of geese going north or south? Is it just the sight or sound, or is it a deeper feeling about the changing seasons? Why do people like to watch ducks or swans swimming in city parks? Is it their graceful swimming and diving, or just the kaleidoscope of color and movement? And why do people ooh and aah when they see the little duckling fuzzballs following their mothers? There is something magnetic about waterfowl that draws the attention and the imagination of both city dwellers and people who live in the country."

The Federal Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program (JDS) is a dynamic arts and science curriculum that teaches wetlands and waterfowl conservation to students in kindergarten through high school. The program incorporates scientific and wildlife management principles into a visual arts curriculum, with participants completing a JDS design as their visual “term papers."


Waterfowl Xpress is a guide and introduction to the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program. This pdf is a combination white paper and FAQ of sorts; read this distillation if you, your class/student/son/daughter have never done the Program before. The information contained will direct you to confidently build a foundation of introductory actions...leading to success. 

A case and how-to-do-it for student drawing and illustration comes from biology teachers Brian Dempsey and B.J. Betz. They published Biological Drawing A Scientific Tool for Learning in 2001 which is now available as a pdf via this National Association of Biology Teachers link.

National Overview

The JDS has increased in popularity significantly since its inception in 1989 and even more since the implementation of a national art contest and stamp in 1993. The program was first recognized by Congress in 1994 when the Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program Act was enacted. In 2000, Congress reauthorized the program and expanded it from 17 states to include students in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. Visit the Federal Junior Duck Stamp website for a comprehensive overview and information concerning this program.

More than 27,000 students enter state JDS art contests each year. While the program’s data collection methods do not account for students who participate in curriculum activities without submitting artwork, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of students have been educated on the importance of waterfowl and wetlands conservation since the enactment of the 1994 legislation.

Revenue from the sales of the national Junior Duck Stamp (the national contest winner design) goes to support awards and environmental education for students who participate in the program, as well as efforts to market the stamp.


Nationally developed, standards-based curriculum is available for educators, addressing both formal and informal platforms. The formal curriculum can be downloaded from the national Junior Duck Stamp Program curriculum webpage. Note that the curriculum product is two-parted; one part focuses on educators and the other part, a workbook, focuses on the middle school aged students (can be adapted for older/younger students). The nonformal curriculum currently is available only by compact disk. Please stop by the Refuge office for a copy.

Montana Program

Montana students have consistently produced excellent "term papers" via the art contest; they have twice won the contest nationally since program inception. Jia Huang was the first female to win the national contest in 1995/96 and Nathan Closson won in 2002/03. Deadline for art entries is March 15; the contest brochure and entry form contains all the rules/regulations. Below is a table with participation rates by judged groups (classroom grades) per year since 2000.

K-3rd      4th-6th       7th-9th        10th-12th          Total Entries            

Loaner Trunks

The Refuge has four Junior Duck Stamp educational "loaner trunks" for school usage. They are designed to support educator and student learning/participation in the program. These trunks contain: art materials, books, curriculum, cd, dvd, duck wings, how-to guides, magazines, photographs, posters, puppets, and reference materials. Contact Tom Reed, Montana Junior Duck Stamp coordinator, by email or phone (406) 777-5552 x205 to schedule usage.   

Montana Junior Duck Stamp Exhibit 

Montana entries placing first, second, and third annually are scanned, printed, laminated and mounted on an 8' by 12' exhibit display frame. Once completed all original artwork is returned to students. This exhibit is typically on display year round at Refuge Headquarters. However, it can loaned out for display by schools, libraries, civic organizations, et al. Following are the statistics from the 2015 Contest:

Top 5 Mediums Employed  
Combination  Colored Pencil   Acrylic    Watercolor    Pastel
 50% 19% 16% 9% 2%
Origination of Entries - Top 5 Cities
Stevensville    Victor    Corvallis    Missoula    Florence
 47% 8% 8% 7% 6%
Top 5 Species Depicted
 Mallard   Wood Duck   Trumpeter Swan   Northern Pintail  Green-winged Teal
23%17% 8% 6% 6%

Award Ceremony

All students (including related parents, teachers, mentors, siblings) achieving honorable mention or higher are invited to the Montana Junior Duck Stamp Award Ceremony. The Ceremony highlights/fetes student achievement within the beautiful backdrop of the Bitterroot Mountains and proximal wetlands featuring...ducks! This special event has not yet been scheduled for 2018 traditionally held in the Outdoor Amphitheater at Refuge Headquarters. Please contact Tom Reed by email (tom_reed@fws.gov) or phone (406) 777-5552 x205 for follow-up information. 

Let's Go Outside Journal & Backpack

Kids, imagine feeling happy, good and improving your ability to learn and think better without taking a pill. Even better, this activity has no side effects beyond getting wet and dirty at times. What are we recommending? Technically, it is called "interacting with nature" by adults, but to you it is "going outside". Scientists have found many benefits to activities that involve nature, like better health and learning. What activities can you do outside? Well, if you and Mom/Dad stop by the Refuge Visitor Center you can borrow the official Let's Go Outside backpack. It is full of tools to explore nature and has activities to do using the Let's Go Outside journal. You will have fun, especially doing the Scavenger Hunt.

Yes, some of the activities can be done at home or here on the Refuge...with your family! Check out our Trails, the Kids Fishing Clinic, Montana Junior Duck Stamp program and the Refuge Visitor Center for great outside experiences.

Refuge Trails

The Refuge has five miles of trail through forest, grassland, wetland. You can discover all sorts of plant and animal life when hiking...like the owl relatives of "Hedwig" (the snowy owl companion of Harry Potter) or any of the other bird species present which are descendants of ancient dinosaurs. How cool is that? Each plant and animal present has a story; you can explore, investigate all and create a story/drawing to share with your friends and family. As John Muir said: "The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness."

Visitor Center

Close-up looks, in some cases touch and feel, of plant and animals make the Refuge Visitor Center a great place to visit. Collections of furs, antlers, horns, feathers and taxidermy will allow you to learn about nature by comparing: what they are made of versus what you are made of. You will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of wildlife.

Kids Fishing Clinic

"Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment. Cares I knew not, and cared naught about them" (John James Audubon, who became America's most famous ornithologist). So yes, fishing is a good way to become familiar with nature and the outside. We invite you to participate in this event...it is so much fun! 

The hook doesn't just magically put itself on the line and the fish definitely don't just jump into the boat (Katie Tanner-Big Sky Bassers member).

Kids, the Refuge has partnered with Big Sky Basser's (Basser's) and Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks for over 26 years in hosting the Kids Fishing Clinic (Clinic ) just for you! Especially if you are aged 7-12, you can participate; merely have your parents fill out an application and mail back to the Basser's to register. Applications are typically found at Bob Ward's (Hamilton and Missoula), Sportsmen Warehouse, Sports Authority, and Rodda Paint.

The Clinic usually is scheduled for the second Saturday of June with fishing and educational activities running from 9 am to 2 pm. Over 2,300 kids, just like you have attended the Clinic.

 The Basser's supply all fishing tackle along with lunch...a great deal indeed for you kids! You will even get a supply of fishing tackle to take home so you can continue to have fun fishing at other places. Oh, almost forgot to mention that a cool-looking t-shirt is a souvenir for you to keep. The shirt will remind you of your new skills: casting, hooking, snagging weeds, learning about wetland plants and animals, and holding/releasing fish...oh, they are slippery. Ladd Knotek, fisheries biologist with Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks, supplied the Refuge with the data describing the number of fish caught measuring 12 inches or more. Did you know that a large-mouthed bass over 16 inches in length are at least 6 years old; these fish grow slowly in cool waters

Education Programs

Environmental Education

 "Environmental education (EE) teaches children and adults how to learn about and investigate their environment, and to make intelligent, informed decisions about how they can take care of it" (definition by the North American Association for Environmental Education).

Comprehensive Conservation Plan Environmental Education Objectives

Continue and expand environmental education programs and activities on and off the refuge for at least 1,500 adults and 4,000 students of all abilities. These programs will focus on the values and importance of the natural, historical, and cultural resources of the refuge and the Bitterroot Valley, including the refuge’s efforts to maintain, enhance, and restore native plant and wildlife communities on the refuge.