Will Cline says “I have a problem with just sitting in the living room,” and that explains, to some extent, why the 81-year old Coeur d’Alene resident has been a volunteer for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for the past 13 years.
A 20-year Navy retiree and former employee of the Boise-Cascade Corp., Cline has done a variety of jobs for the department, which, like most public agencies, is perennially stretched for funds.
“I’m a welder, so I’ve built bear traps and pickup racks for them. I’ve also worked check stations and I’ve ridden with enforcement officers. I plan to keep it up just as long as my health holds up,” Cline says.
The government agencies that manage the land and the critters on it offer a wealth of opportunities for fulfillment to those who enjoy the outdoors and aren’t in particular need of wages.
And scanning the volunteer “jobs” that follow, you’ll find that, although all relate to the land, outdoor work isn’t an integral part of all of them; there are indoor opportunities as well. The agencies welcome applicants of both sexes, and age isn’t a limiting factor.
The listing that follows is not all-inclusive. Special needs arise from time to time, so it’s best to express your interest and state your qualifications now to the agency or agencies that interest you most. You may get a call for a fun and challenging job.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Here’s a look at opportunities with the agency Will Cline has ‘adopted.’
Pete Gardner, who oversees the volunteer program, says he gets most of his help from members of outdoor-oriented clubs like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited and the Audubon Society.
Last year those organizations produced 824 volunteers who worked some 12,000 hours on a variety of tasks.
You don’t have to be a member of any organization to contribute. The department has a corps of 39 other volunteers called “reservists,” each of who provide at least 40 hours of non-compensated work yearly.
This has included supporting the Lake Pend Oreille predator reduction program by transporting captured lake trout to area food banks; staffing wildlife check stations; improving patrol cabins; staffing events including the yearly Bighorn Show, the North Idaho Fair and county fairs; rehabilitating information kiosks; maintaining agency trailers; helping with the clinics associated with the yearly Free Fishing Day; and helping with disposal of injured wildlife and road kills.
Another job includes gathering, transporting and planting willows and alder for a habitat enhancement project on the Pack River Delta. Gardner says there’s a possibility of a similar activity on the Clark Fork Delta near Hope.
If you’re handy with a hammer and saw, you could help build facilities to house injured raptors.
Here’s a project to keep in mind for next winter: building bird boxes for bluebirds, swallows and wrens. Volunteers spent January and February constructing 1,000 of the homes for those cavity dwellers, and they’ll be sold to the public for $5 each in the coming months.
Gardner emphasizes that the agency doesn’t have “make work” projects just to keep volunteers busy.
“We have lots of real work that we have to get done, and we do our best to match each volunteer to the task or tasks that they’re best suited for,” he says.
To volunteer for any of the Fish and Game jobs, contact Gardner at 208-769-1414.
Idaho Panhandle National Forests
The Forest Service offers a variety of opportunities.
Here’s an indoor “job” for “A friendly, outgoing, helpful, neat” person who could help the information receptionists at the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District offices in Fernan and the Silver Valley, “particularly on the heavy visitation days, Monday, Thursday and Friday,” reads the position description.
The work includes selling merchandise, keeping merchandise books in order, talking with visitors and working on brochures.
But if you hanker for outdoor work, there’s plenty of it. One such task is replacing 100 feet of wooden footing on a Priest Lake trail popular with mountain bikers and hikers.
Got a green thumb? The agency’s Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District office in Fernan needs someone with a Rototiller to plow part of a lawn at the ranger station, and volunteers are also needed to dig up plants for transplanting to the station’s native plant gardens.
Here’s a volunteer job that actually pays: The Forest Service has partnered with the Priest Lake Museum and the Bonner County Historical Society, and the museum needs an intern for the summer.
Duties will include digitizing and reorganizing the museum’s collection records and completing computerized data entry on holdings.
That job will begin in mid-June and run six weeks. Housing near Priest Lake will be provided plus a $1,000 stipend and a $600 allowance for food and travel.
The Forest Service would prefer a student who has completed graduate work in museum studies, history or a related field, but undergraduates with experience will also be considered.
The Bonners Ferry Ranger District is looking for a single person or a couple to act as host at its historic Snyder Guard Station for the summer.
The agency will provide housing in a new single bedroom home on the site, but notes that house is not adequate for couples with children. It will charge the host $225 a month to help defray the cost of utilities and maintenance of the host house.
Duties will include greeting visitors and campers, “handyman” chores and collecting fees. A certification test and bonding will be required.
The forests’ public affairs officer, Gail Aschenbrenner West, is the contact for any of the jobs described above. Her telephone number is 208-765-7211.
Bureau of Land Management
The BLM’s Coeur d’Alene office can use volunteers at its Beauty Bay Recreation Site and Mineral Ridge public boat launch for routine maintenance, litter cleanup and other small weekly projects.
An annual volunteer project is clearing brush on a 4-mile trail around Gamlin Lake east of Sagle. The work requires proficiency with hand tools.
The agency’s volunteer coordinator, Bill Cook, says the BLM’s recreation programs use the most volunteers. Those persons donated more than 1,300 hours of labor in 2008, most of them on the agency’s adopt-a-trail and adopt-a-site programs.
Volunteers have been put to work for Public Lands Day each September, working at Gamlin Lake, Blue Creek Bay, Blackwell Island and Huckleberry Campground.
A project to keep in mind for next winter is the eagle watch at the east end of Lake Coeur d’Alene. It’s sponsored by the BLM between Christmas and New Year each year. Volunteers answer visitors’ questions and count the raptors that visit to feed on kokanee salmon.
The BLM maintains a list of potential volunteers at its Coeur d’Alene office. When projects arise, agency personnel contact them to determine interest and availability.
For additional information or to volunteer call Bill Cook at 208-769-5042.
Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation
There are a number of state parks in North Idaho, many of which seek hosts who spend spring, summer and fall responding to visitors’ needs.
Recruitment for those positions takes place from Labor Day to early March, and all host positions are filled for the 2009 season.
But don’t give up on this year. Kathryn Hampton, coordinator of the department’s volunteer program, says individual parks may need volunteers in specific activities like surveys, special events, interpretation and research, and she’d like to have applications on file.
Hampton, whose office is in Boise, serves as the Parks Department’s clearing house for volunteer jobs all over the state. She may be contacted at 208-514-2493.